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Caldwell: I'm feeling heat on return to the Euro Tour

 

Warm return: NI ace Jonny Caldwell follows a shot
Warm return: NI ace Jonny Caldwell follows a shot
Leader Will Besseling

By Brian Keogh

Jonny Caldwell avoided sunburn but paid a high price for two bad swings on his return to European Tour action in the Alfred Dunhill Championship at a scorching Leopard Creek.

Making his first appearance on the circuit for eight years, the Clandeboye man (35) opened with a two-over 74 to end the opening day nine shots behind Dutchman Will Besseling, whose 65 gave him a one-shot lead over England's Garrick Porteous, Spain's Pablo Larrazabal and South Africa's Keith Horne.

Caldwell was one under for his round with six holes to go in sweltering temperatures when he racked up double-bogey sevens at the 13th and 15th holes.

"Apart from two bad swings on 13 and 15, I played fairly solidly," said Caldwell, who hit his second shot out of bounds at the 13th, then drove out of bounds at the 15th. "I'm just not used to this heat."

Despite the heatwave, Caldwell opted not to take advantage of a special dispensation from the Tour, permitting players to wear shorts during tournament play for the first time.

"No, my legs would be roasted off me," joked Caldwell, who regained his European Tour card at the Q-School after a 10-year absence this month. "There's not enough suncream in the whole of South Africa for them!"

Caldwell was tied for 77th, just one stroke outside the projected cut mark, but fellow Co Down man Cormac Sharvin was near the back of the field after making a quadruple-bogey nine at the dangerous 15th in an eight-over 80.

"I played nicely," said Besseling, who narrowly missed out on a full European Tour card for this season after finishing 18th on the Challenge Tour.

"It's a great start for the season and a great round. I had it going nicely on the par-fives. I was able to get there in two with irons and converted the birdies, and an eagle on 15 really helped."

Larrazabal, who was one of a handful of players who turned down the option to wear shorts in competition for the first time in the high temperatures at Kruger National Park, had an eagle, five birdies and one bogey in his 66.

"First round of the season, I don't think I'm ready to go with shorts," the four-time European Tour winner said. "It's more for Pro-Ams or practice rounds to chill out with friends, but as a competitive round I didn't feel like it and it worked.

"We've played in a lot worse than this, we played in Singapore and Malaysia.

"This is hot but it's not that bad. We're not going to die.

"As a Spaniard I grew up in the city, so to come to the bush is something special I discovered through the years on tour. I love the nature, I love the wildlife and this is paradise.

"We have one of the best golf courses you can play and Leopard Creek only has one very, very bad thing - it's too far from Barcelona! I would have a place here if this was five or six hours from home."

In Turkey, Glasson Hotel & Golf Club professional Colm Moriarty carded a five-under 66 to take a share of the lead into the final round of the 54-hole PGA Play-Offs at Antalya Golf Club.

He was tied with England's Jason Levermore on eight under par, one clear of Michael Bullen in the race for a €4,100 top prize and some precious European Tour exemptions.

The winner will be awarded a spot in the European Tour's flagship $7m BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth next year while the top five will book their places in July's Betfred British Masters at Close House.

Evolve Golf Coaching's Michael McGeady needs a low round as he was 20th on two over, six shots outside the top five after a 75 yesterday.

Carlow Golf Club's Damien McGrane was two shots further back after following his opening 75 with a 71.

On the Ladies' European Tour, Leona Maguire birdied two of her last five holes to open with a one-over 73 in the €300,000 Andalucia Costa del Sol Open de Espana in Marbella.

The 24-year-old Slieve Russell star was tied for 42nd at Aloha Golf Club, eight strokes behind Germany's Olivia Cowan, who shot a career-best seven-under-par 65 to head Order of Merit leader Marianne Skarpnord of Norway by one stroke going into the second round.

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