Richard Sterne will continue to take tentative steps on the comeback trail as he starts in this weekÂs Omega Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour.
Sterne, the 2008 South Africa Open Championship winner and the man who completely dominated the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit that year, took 2011 off to try and put his back injury behind him, and he makes use of his medical extension on the European Tour to play in his third tournament of the year.
He returned to tournament action in January with a fine Â if unexpected Â sixth place in the Africa Open, during which his third round of nine-under-par 64 at East London Golf Club was particularly eye-catching.
Although he missed the cut in the following weekÂs Joburg Open Â rounds of level-par 72 on the tough Royal Johannesburg and Kensington East Course and 71 on the West Course were not enough to put him into weekend play Â he is still in ninth position at this early stage on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit.
His play in East London was all the more impressive as it was the first time he had played 18 holes for nearly a year after he had started building up slowly with his practicing, but he still experienced some discomfort from his back.
So the decision to miss out on the first two events of the European TourÂs sojourn in the Middle East would appear to be justified, and he goes into the event in Dubai somewhat rested.
As was the case in the first two events in the Middle East, South African players who earned their cards at the European TourÂs Qualifying School last year will not be in the field, as many of EuropeÂs top players continue to jockey for position early on in the season.
However, Sterne will be joined in the field by South AfricaÂs most recent European success story, Branden Grace, as well as George Coetzee, Jaco van Zyl, James Kingston, JbeÂ Kruger and Keith Horne.