Yet, less than a fortnight since he captured a record 12th title, the Kempton Park star showed he was ready to embrace the expectation when he set the first round target at three-under-par 69 on Monday.
“I hit the ball unbelievably well, but the conditions were pretty tough and I let a few slip,” said Strydom, who mixed six birdies with a trio of bogeys. “Some of the holes played really long in the wind, but the course itself is in great condition and the greens are running so smooth and true.
“We’ll be back here for the Sunshine Tour’s Sun Carnival City Pro-Am, so it’s great to have three competitive rounds here before the event. I’m pleased overall with the first round, but hopefully I can make a few more birdies on Tuesday.”
Strydom holds a one shot lead over a motley crew that includes a Sunshine Ladies Tour campaigner, a 15-year-old amateur and a former IGT Tour winner.
Lejan Lewthwaite reeled in a string of four birdies on the front nine and picked up another pair of birdies on the back nine of the links-style layout before a double bogey finish spoiled her run, while Jayden Schaper– who tied for eighth in his IGT Tour debut at the Ebotse Challenge in August – played nearly flawless golf with just a lone blemish at the par three 15th on his card.
Duane Keun, third in last week’s Lake Club Challenge, was four under before a brace of bogeys down the home stretch cost him the lead.
“Now that’s the beauty of playing on South Africa’s premier development Tour,” said Strydom.
“You never really know who will hit a hot streak on the day and that’s why you have Jayden and Lejan in the mix with Duane.
“If you look a little further down the leaderboard, Carrie (Park) and Michelle (Leigh) share fifth at one under with a couple of amateurs and Tyrone Ferreira, a two-time Sunshine Tour winner. Another shot back, Tristen Strydom, who is one of the top young talents on Tour at the moment, is tied with Danie van Tonder, a three-time winner on the Sunshine Tour who also won 11 times on the IGT Tour before he turned pro.
“They are cutting their teeth on the IGT Tour just like Tyrone, Danie and myself did a few years back. This is where we learned to handle pressure and to suck up the bad rounds. That’s why I always come back to work on my game and to stay sharp between events.
“I know when I tee it up on the IGT Tour that the guys figure I’m a favourite to win, but let me tell you than even after 12 victories, I never underestimate the guys chasing me. You work for that lead, but then you have to stay focussed; if you don’t stay in the moment, you can lose your edge in a wink. “You tend to get used to the guys you play with week in, week out on the Sunshine Tour, but the IGT Tour is never predictable and you can’t afford complacency. It’s is a great place for us to stay competitive and a proper education for the youngsters.”
FIRST ROUND SCORES
69 – Ockie Strydom
70 – Jayden Schaper AMA, Duane Keun, Lejan Lewthwaite
71 – Elmo Barnard AMA, Hilton Hughes AMA, Michael Schutz, James Pennington AMA (SWA), Michelle Leigh, Carrie Park, Tyrone Ferreira
72 – Shaun Barrett AMA, Gary Daoust (BEL), Ray Badenhorst (ZIM), Danie Van Tonder, Tristen Strydom AMA
73 – Steven Le Roux AMA
74 – Andrew Carlsson AMA, Divan Marais, Teagan Moore, Johary Raveloarison (MDG)
75 – Coert Groenewald, Francesca Cuturi, Jake Redman, Leon Visser AMA
76 – WM Coetzee AMA, Duan Nagel AMA, Stephan Erasmus AMA, Pieter Moolman, Oliver Bekker
77 – Hayden Griffiths AMA, Paul Rodrigues AMA, Michael Kok AMA, Simon Kruger, Neil Cheetham (ENG), Deon Bredenkamp, Aneel Kallan AMA
78 – Jordan Burnand AMA, Jordan Parsons AMA, Michael Van Rooyen, Cameron Gunning, Ruan Korb AMA, Peter Wilson (ENG), Phillip Kruse AMA, Shaun van Tonder
79 – Liam Bezuidenhout AMA, Gareth Anderson AMA, Damian Naicker, Breyten Meyer, Heinrich Bruiners
80 – Tristan Nel AMA, Sam Metcalfe AMA, Bradley Diggeden AMA, Hendrikus Stoop AMA
81 – Angelo Marques AMA, Russel Franz
82 – Hanro Booysen
83 – Liam Van Deventer AMA, Kyle Opperman AMA, Nico Du Buisson AMA, JP Schmidt AMA, Eric Nel AMA, Wayne du Toit, Brett Liddle
84 – Jack Duthie AMA, Jason Ackerman AMA, Dwayne Coetzee, Daniel Joubert AMA
89 – Dylan Lavagna-Slater AMA
90 – Jonty B Shelton AMA
Missed the cut:-
N/R – Charles Grobler AMA
DSQ – Louis Van Rooyen AMA