Alex Haindl played one practice round at St. Francis Links before teeing up at the Vodacom Origins of Golf Final, but he scoped out the course well enough to take a one-stroke lead midway through the first round on Wednesday.
“I’ve never been here and I only had one practice round yesterday, so I’m happy with this start. It’s a beautiful golf course, but today there were a few tees that I got too and didn’t recognise,” he said.
The 30-year-old from Bloemfontein took advantage of a morning start and unusually calm conditions, shooting 68 to stretch out a one-stroke lead over Drikus Bruyns and Jake Roos.
“It was good and solid all round,” said Haindl. “When you play on a course like this you have to see what the weather throws at you. If it’s pumping you try to survive and if it’s not too bad then you try to score a bit.”
Winner of the 2011 Suncoast Classic, Haindl has an affinity for coastal courses. He started the day with a birdie at the 10th and then rocketed to the front with a spell of four birdies over six holes, starting at the 13th and ending at the turn.
The wind picked up as the day moved on, but Haindl had already done the hard yards. A birdie at the sixth offered him a taste of five-under-par, but a bogey at the ninth set him back to four-under-par, a score he would have taken gladly at the start of the day.
“I played quite a few tough courses in Europe last year and I’ve always enjoyed the challenge. These coastal courses suit my eye and I’m happy to come away with 68 today” he said.
Drikus Bruyns played his way into the tournament through pre-qualifying and then rode that momentum into the first round, making four birdies over his first loop on Wednesday. The 21-year-old felt the lash of the links during his second nine and carded bogeys at the third and ninth, but kept the big numbers at bay and reached the clubhouse in an early share of second.
“Pre-qualifying is tough and if you get a good start you have to build on the confidence. I’m happy with the first round and we’ll see what happens tomorrow,” he said.
Stalwart Jake Roos overcame a bogey at the first before playing his way to a share of second. The six-time Sunshine Tour winner was impressive in the wind and carded 32 on the back nine to reach three-under-par.