Richard Sterne started his campaign in the Joburg Open on Thursday in similar vein to his fast start in Dubai last week as he raced to an eight-under-par 63 to take the early lead in the Â1.3-million tournament.
Sterne opened with a 62 in Dubai as he finished second, and he is hoping to replicate his 2008 win at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington as he lit up the scoreboard on the par-71 West Course with six birdies and an eagle.
And with three days ahead of him on the tougher East Course, playing at a par of 72 this year, heÂs hoping memories of 2008 will fuel him: ÂI had three good rounds around the East Course that year,Â he said. ÂIf I can do that now IÂll have a chance on Sunday.Â
The eagle on the 507-metre (554-yard) ninth was clearly an important contributor to his fast start. ÂI hit a good drive and then a very good four-iron, pitched a foot short of the green,Â he said.Â The pin was only six feet on and I chipped it on, a little chip and run, and it went straight in, which was quite nice.Â
Sterne had a stellar 2008, winning the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit and all three events which were con-sanctioned by the European Tour in South Africa at that time Â including the South African Open Championship.
But a back injury plagued him for the next three years, and he made a cautious return to European Tour action in 2012. A second-place finish in the Wales Open signalled his return, as did his performance in Dubai last week, topped only by a deflating eagle by winner Stephen Gallacher on the 16th.
He has been putting superbly, and when his game comes together as it did on the West Course, heÂs a tough customer. ÂI hit 17 greens today, so I was never really in trouble at all,Â he said. ÂSome days it feels good and everything kind of happens. Golf is strange Â youÂve got to hit the right kind of shots at the right time.Â
He led by one from Bryce Easton, whoÂs superb 65 on the East Course included a career-first ace on the 12th. ÂItÂs one of those things Â you donÂt think about it when youÂre playing the hole, but when it goes in it takes a couple of seconds to realise that itÂs actually disappeared.Â