Justin returns to fray with 67 at Wild Coast

Justin Harding came back from six weeks off golf and carded a three-under-par 67 to slip into second place in the first round of the R540,000 Vodacom Origins of Golf event at Wild Coast Sun Country Club on Wednesday.

He trails Vaughn Groenewald by one stroke after a day characterised by strong winds on the 5,807-metre par-70 coastal layout.

Harding, who won the Vodacom Origins of Golf final at Oubaai last year for his maiden title, and took the Lombard Insurance Classic for his second Sunshine Tour title in June, slipped while climbing over a gate and caught his upper arm on a spike.

“I had eight stitches, and went through the whole emergency room thing,” he said.

He was given the go-ahead to resume golf only last Friday, but you wouldn’t have thought so watching his round which had just a single bogey in it.

“I was nervous on the first tee, and coming down the stretch,” he admitted, “but I wasn’t concerned about the arm, because I’d played a few practice rounds already.”

He started his round on the 10th as the wind had reached its unrelenting peak, and he made birdies on the 12th and 16th to turn in two-under.

He dropped his single shot on two after the turn, but he made that up immediately with a birdie on three and his fourth birdie came on six.

Groenewald also dropped just a single shot in his round, and was buoyed by a feeling of confidence that has been growing throughout the year.

“I’ve been leading in three tournaments this year, and just messed it up a bit,” he said. “But the more tournaments I play and the more I get into position, the more confidence I get.”

That confidence could be the thing that gets him his third professional victory after he won two in 2006. “When you’re confident and you’re playing well, you don’t actually think of bad shots,” he said.

“I love the course, and at the moment, my golf is good and a win is very close. I just need to put three rounds together and I can do it,” he added.

He has Jean Hugo, a two-time Vodacom Origins of Golf winner in 2011, to contend with. Hugo carded a one-under-par 69, to share third with Neil Cheetham and Shaun Norris.

And Harding had a win and a share of fourth in his last two tournaments before his injury, so he will be tough to beat too.

“It’s good to be playing this well after time off,” said Harding, “and I’m looking forward to the rest of the week.”

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