South Africa’s NJ Arnoldi and Jason Smith are three off the pace in Argentina after the first round of the 43rd Juan Carlos Tailhade Cup in Pilar.
Arnoldi opened with an even-par 71 at the Los Lagartos Country Club, while reigning SA Stroke Play champion Smith from Gauteng North returned a two over 73.
The team combined for a first round total of 144 and share fifth spot with Victor Rufián and Iván Gutiérrez from Spain.
Alejandro Arguinzones(72) and Gustavo Punceles (69) from Venezuela combined for a three-under-par 141 to top the leaderboard alongside Corey Conners and Austin Connelly from Canada, who carded respective rounds of 70 and 71.
Chile and Argentina finished one behind the first round pacesetters.
More than two weeks of incessant rain in Pilar left the course at Los Lagartos Country Club soft underfoot.
“You have to get the ball to the right spots on the greens, but it was tough to be precise, because the course is playing very long, and the greens are very fast,” said Arnoldi.
The Ekurhuleni golfer had a birdie at the par-five second, but gave back the advantage with bogey at the par-four ninth. He bogeyed both par-threes (10 and 12) after the turn, but drained an eagle putt at the par-five 15th to level the score and parred the last three holes to finish level for the round.
Smith racked up two birdies on the front nine to offset alone bogey at the par-four fifth. The TuksSport Golf Academy player erased a bogey at the 12th with birdie at the 13th, but a double bogey, bogey finish saw him complete the back nine in three over 38.
“I was really surprised that the greens dried so fast, because they were still flooded on Monday,” Smith said. “The greens are rolling well, but very fast. You really have to be accurate with your approaches or you are struggling to make par.”
Arnoldi and Smith are chasing South Africa’s third triumph in the Team Competition of this prestigious event.
Former Masters champion Immelman and multiple Sunshine Tour winner Ulrich van den Berg scored the country’s first victory in 1999, and in 2008, former Sanlam SA Amateur champion Ryan Dreyer and JG Claassen secured South Africa’s second triumph in Pilar.
ROUND ONE LEADERBOARD
141 Venezuela; Canada
142 Argentina; Chile
144 South Africa; Spain
145 New Zealand
148 Brazil; Colombia; Switzerland
152 Australia; Uruguay