“I played a good round today and I’ve not played good golf for the last few years. I’ve just come off a massive injury from the middle of last year and I was off for 13 months. I’m pleased to be back, and playing like I did today is just an incredible feeling,” he said.
Hansen shone while the clouds rolled overhead at Leopard Creek. He found all of the right spots on the greens and, in spite of some very tough pin placements, made birdies all over the show. Starting on the back nine, he included a birdie at the 18th to turn in 33. On the front stretch he started to press down the accelerator and added red numbers at the first and third.
“The wind was swirling a little when we started out, but I was very fortunate on some of the tougher ones and I got myself into a good position with uphill putts and all that,” he said.
“I took advantage and then the weather died down and the sun started to shine on the last nine holes. I managed to hole a few puts… all in all I played great.”
The massive risk and reward factor at Leopard Creek meant that plenty of players lost their way after carding their first bogey of the day. This was not the case for cool Hansen, who brushed off a drop at the fourth and went on to birdie the next three holes. Par at the last meant 65 for the day, which matched the tournament low round and launched Hansen 46 places up the leaderboard to tied second.
“It’s my first time here and it’s a great experience,” he said. “I came here early because I didn’t play too well at the SA Open. I went on safari on Sunday and I’ve been in love with the place ever since I got here. It’s a fantastic golf course and the surrounding is incredible, so everything is in order. I’m pleased that I could back it up with some good play.”
The 39-year-old Dane watched his younger countryman Morten Orum Madsen win the South African Open Championship last week and was excited for the next Danish star. Hansen heads into the weekend on seven-under-par and following Madsen, who shares the lead with Charl Schwartzel on eight-under.
“I’m pleased that I’m up there,” said Hansen. “It’s always nice – but there is a weekend to go and there are a lot of good players. Last week’s champion, Morten (Madsen) is playing really well and (Charl) Schwartzel is there and he’s always awesome at this place. There’s going to be a lot of good golf at the weekend and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
The winner of this week’s €1,5-million tournament will pick up the final spot at the Nedbank Golf Challenge. That means a minimum bonus of US$100,000 and the chance to compete at the second-most lucrative event in the Southern Hemisphere.
Hansen, should he win, would become the third Dane in the field at the Nedbank Golf Challenge this year. For the two-time European Tour winner it’s an indication of the strength of Danish golf, but he’s not going to think any further than that – there is still a weekend to go at Leopard Creek and Sunday is a long way off.
“It would be great to have three Danes at the Nedbank Golf Challenge, but let’s take it one step at a time. What has been good about Danish golf is that there is always somebody there at the weekend, which takes the pressure off the other guys. In that sense golf is looking really good in Denmark,” he said.
“I’m the old buck in that group now, so I’m trying to hang on and show them a few good tricks. I do appreciate that there are a few guys coming up and it creates a nice atmosphere. It gives us older guys a little boost, so we all play well.”