He played as if he didn’t have a care in the world and that was the trick for Brandon Pieters as he carded a four-under-par 68 in the opening round of the Vodacom Origins of Golf tournament at Parys Golf and Country Estate.
After a share of 11th in the Joburg Open and of sixth in the Telkom PGA Championship, Pieters, 37, played the two Sunshine Tour events in Swaziland in May – and then in no more until he resurfaced in Parys.
“It’s good to be back,” said Pieters of his round which had four birdies in his opening nine, and then two bogeys at 12 and 13, before he closed with birdies on 17 and 18 to find himself in a share of third behind overnight leader Anthony Michael and second-placed Attie Schwartzel.
“The wind started picking towards the end of the front nine,” he said, “which made scoring a little bit difficult. I hit a couple of wayward shots, a couple of mishit shots, but I was happy to bring it back with those birdies at the end.”
Pieters won three Vodacom Origins of Golf events in 2009, starting with his maiden professional victory at Pretoria Country Club and culminating in his win in the final of the series that year at SImola, so the return to tournament golf after an absence of over three months at the fifth event of the 2013 series made sense.
“I’ve been at home,” he said. “A little bit of an injury, a little bit of a lack of motivation, a bit of everything. I think I went through a bit of a mid-life crisis!”
The ‘bit of an injury’ included problems with his right hip after he fell over a child’s toy, so there was a legitimate excuse for his absence from the Sunshine Tour. But the absence seemed to fuel itself as it went on longer.
“I played a couple of rounds of golf with my friends,” he said, “but there was no practicing at all.”
A quick look recently at the Sunshine Tour schedule alerted him to the fact that he was losing ground on the Order of Merit as well as the 2014 Chase to the Investec Cup, and that piqued his interest again.
“I started hitting balls about a week ago, trying to find my enthusiasm for the game again,” he said.
And jumping back in the deep end of a tournament felt good. “It was quite surprising,” he said. “I had no expectations, and it was quite nice to play like that. I didn’t get myself in any bad mental situations.
“I just found the ball, took a yardage and hit it. I hit some bad shots, but it didn’t really bother me today. So I’m back again, and I’m just going to see what I can to until the end of summer,” he added.
He could be a threat, with that kind of relaxed attitude.