Jaco Van Zyl had a 2014 on the Sunshine Tour he’d rather forget, but he was starting to put all of that behind him on Thursday in the opening round of the 20th Dimension Data Pro-Am being played on all three of the Fancourt courses.
He opened with a two-under-par 70 on the Outeniqua course, and while that left him some way off the pace set at six-under by Danie van Tonder and George Coetzee on the same course, he was pleased with his work in the R4.5-million tournament which gets the 2015 Sunshine Tour season underway.
“I’m still very rusty out there,” he said, “but I’m hitting it nicely and swinging it nicely. It’s just the short game which is very rusty.
He got it to three-under through 11, but then successive bogeys on 15 and 16 stopped him in his tracks, before he clawed one back with a birdie on 18. “I played nicely up to about the 13th hole, when the weather started coming in a little bit – there was just a lot to get used to again.”
Van Zyl sacrificed most of his year after missing the cut in the Telkom Business PGA Championship last April in order to have surgery on a troublesome knee, and he made his return earlier than expected in the Vodacom Origins of Golf Final at Pezula in October.
That backfired on him as he ended up having to deal with problems in the other knee, and he eventually hit the fairways again in January for the season-ending South African Open Championship. A solid enough share of 55th saw him start and finish with rounds of level-par at Glendower Golf Club, with his second round 73 and third-round 75 showing just how rusty he was.
Despite being some way off the lead, and the difficulties posed by The Links at Fancourt awaiting him, he was still upbeat about his performance on Outeniqua. “It’s a start,” he said. “No-one wins an event in the first round. It’s under par, so I’ll see whether I can build a little bit more round The Links and Montagu.”
It’s a tournament he loves, and he won the 2013 edition of the event. “It’s good to come back here,” he said. “I’ve got fond memories of it, so it’s a nice way to kick-start things for this season and for my comeback from the surgery.”