Erik Van Rooyen didn’t waste any time taking over at the Irish Open on Saturday.
The 28-year-old from South Africa pulled away from the field early with three birdies over his first four holes at Ballyliffin.
By day’s end, he carded a near-flawless, six-under par 66 that got him to 14-under par, good for a four-shot lead heading into Sunday’s finale.
Van Rooyen got his card after spending last season on the Challenge Tour, the European Tour’s equivalent of the Web.com.
Closest men to him are Ryan Fox and Joakim Lagergren at 10-under.
After his great start, Van Rooyen wanted more.
“The mindset was just keep going,” he said. “I wasn’t very much aware of my score or the situation. You sometimes get in a groove as a golfer where things just happen and you hit great shots and great putts and that’s what happened. It wasn’t different on the back nine – it’s just different holes, different conditions, different everything. I still played great. Wish I could birdie the two par fives but I didn’t. Looking back, all in all, I think it was a good day.”
He’ll head into the final 18 with a splendid opportunity to earn his first win but wasn’t about to get ahead of himself.
“I would love to get a win but that’s 24 hours from now,” he pointed out. “I’ve been in this position before, maybe not in a Rolex Series, but it’s golf. Go hit the ball, hit on the green and make the putt. We’ll do that tomorrow.”
Jon Rahm made a move earlier in the day. He shot 67 but that only got him to six-under par.
Rory McIlroy will start even farther back. After shooting 72, Rory is one-under and tied for 33rd.