East London, South Africa – Jaco Van Zyl battled the elements on Thursday to card a 6-under 66 and take a 1-stroke lead in the opening round of the Africa Open, which was suspended due to darkness.
Play was also suspended for nearly three hours earlier in the day because of high winds.
"You know, all I could think about over those last three holes was how much I wanted to get off the golf course," said Van Zyl. "The wind was really, really brutal out there, especially over the front nine. It was a struggle to stand and keep your balance over your putts, so the suspension was a good call."
Adilson Da Silva sits alone in second place at 5-under through eight holes, while John Parry stands a shot behind Da Silva after finishing his round with a 68.
Oliver Bekker, Mikko Korhonen and Andrew Curlewis share fourth place at minus-3, with Korhonen and Curlewis needing to finish their opening rounds when play resumes on Friday.
Van Zyl, who is seeking his first win on the European Tour, opened his round with consecutive pars at the ninth and 10th before rolling in a birdie at the 11th.
After he followed his second birdie on the 14th with an eagle on the par-5 15th, he poured in another birdie at the first to reach minus-5.
He then stumbled to a bogey on the second before play was halted when he finished the fourth with his second straight par.
When play resumed, he recorded back-to-back birdies at the fifth and sixth before ending his round with consecutive pars to enter the clubhouse with the lead.
"I definitely feel that if I play a couple of good rounds, I can make a go of it on Sunday," continued Van Zyl.
Da Silva started his round with one of the last groups of the day and raced out to five birdies on his first six holes to drop to 5-under. He then parred his last two holes of the day before play came to a halt.
Parry was tied with Van Zyl at 4-under when play was first suspended following a string of birdies at the 13th, 15th, 17th and first holes, but he came back from the break with a couple of bogeys at the second and fourth.
He got those two shots back, however, with birdies at the fifth and seventh to take sole possession of second place before falling to third thanks to Da Silva's hot start.
Fredrik Andersson Hed, who is currently ranked 97th in the world and is the lone member of the top 100 in the field for this event, carded a couple of double bogeys on the day en route to a 2-over 74. He is currently tied for 75th place.
NOTES: Two-time defending champion Louis Oosthuizen is skipping this event ... Last year, Oosthuizen closed with back-to-back 67s to earn a 2-stroke win over Tjaart van der Walt ... This event is co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour ... Oosthuizen's 265 in 2012 set a new tournament scoring record ... This is the fifth straight year that the tournament is being held at East London Golf Club.