Sterne in Telkom PGA Champs to win

He withdrew in the second round last year with back problems that were to last for the rest of the year, but Richard Sterne is back at the Telkom PGA Championship and is back to win.

The 2008 South African Open Championship winner spent a year trying to get over his back injury, and although it is not completely conquered, he has shown enough signs that he can play well enough to start regaining his 2008 Midas touch.

It was that year that he won the Joburg Open, the Alfred Dunhill Championship and the South African Open to romp away with the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit with a record-breaking total of nearly R6-million, over R4.5-million clear of second-placed Garth Mulroy.

“I want to come here and win,” said Sterne ahead of the first round. “I like the golf course, and I’ve finished second here before. Of all the big South African events, it’s just this one and the Africa Open that I haven’t won, so I’d like to get those under my belt.”

He finished second in the 2007 Telkom PGA Championship, one stroke behind Louis Oosthuizen, and was seventh in his last completed Telkom PGA Championship in 2010 when he finished eight shots off Michiel Bothma’s winning total.

And after a solid couple of performances in Europe, where he qualifies to play under a medical extension – he finished 37th in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and 23rd in the Avantha Masters in India – his game appears unaffected by the injury.

“It’s not really affecting my swing,” he said, “so that’s why I’m playing this week. It’s not where I need it to be, but as long as it’s not affecting my swing, I’ll play.

“During the round it’s generally okay, unless it’s a long round. I’m having quite a bit of physio, just to keep things mobile,” he added.

He was well satisfied with his play during the Avantha Masters. “I played nicely in India. I was very good from tee to green, but I just didn’t score as well as I would have liked. That will come with a bit of time,” he said.

And if it starts coming during this weekend, the leading contenders for one of South Africa’s most prestigious titles will know they’re in a dogfight.

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