Walters seizes initiative at Joburg Open

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Johannesburg (AFP)

Justin Walters birdied the last to take a one-shot lead after the opening round of the Joburg Open on Thursday.

The 35-year-old South African shot a seven-under-par 65 on the East Course at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club after a round that featured six birdies, an eagle at the par-five sixth and a single bogey.

His birdie at the long 18th had looked unlikely when he put his second shot in a bunker, but he got up and down from the sand to edge the lead.

He took a one-stroke advantage from a group of six players on six under par comprised of English duo Antony Wall and David Howell, local lad Haydn Porteous, Swedish pair Johan Carlsson and Michael Jonzon and Zimbabwe's Mark Williams.

Porteous, Carlsson and Jonzon all went six-under 66 around the tougher East Course, while Howell, Wall and Williams carded 65s on the par-71 West layout.

There is extra incentive for the field of 210 players with three places available at this year's British Open at Troon to players who finish in the top 10 and are not already exempt.

"I have a lot of good memories here. And having qualified for the Open here two years ago, I really enjoy playing here, I enjoy playing in Joburg, and I just kind of feel at home somewhat," Walters, who will take to the West Course on Friday, told www.europeantour.com.

"Every time you come here, you build new memories and you have more to draw on when you're kind of in the same position.

"Historically this golf course is always quite tight. Both courses, if you play well offer a lot of birdies and generally, out of a 200-man field, you're going to 30 or 40 guys that are going to play a good round of golf.

"It's really hard to separate yourself on these two courses, so I expect more of the same over the week."

Playing the Joburg Open for the first time, two-time former British Open champion Ernie Els shot a one-under-par 70 on the West Course.