Alex Haindl will take a two-stroke lead into Friday’s final round of the SunBet Challenge hosted by Sun City as he seeks to claim his first Sunshine Tour victory in three years.
Haindl signed for a second round of 69 at the Gary Player Country Club on Thursday, dropping only one shot in his round and making a good birdie at the difficult par-four eighth hole as he climbed to eight under par overall.
“It’s the perfect place to be. Hopefully I can keep it up and come out on top,” he said.
His nearest challenger is Jaco Ahlers, who posted a 67 to see him climb to six under par. Zambia’s Madalitso Muthiya is still in the hunt on five under par following a 69.
Haindl has been incredibly solid at the top of the leaderboard since the first round as he looks to finally overcome a long struggle with a back injury and add to his three Sunshine Tour titles to date.
“This was really a nice follow-up round to my opening round,” he said. “I tried to approach the golf course in the same way, but I actually felt like I hit it better today. I gave myself a lot of chances, but I left a few putts out there.”
The single bogey on his scorecard was another source of confidence for Haindl, who in 2018 had to undergo a spinal fusion to correct a previous surgery and which has him playing on a medical exemption this year.
“I’m happy that the work I’ve been putting in is coming together. It has been a while since my last win, and it’s good to be in contention again and playing better. Let’s be honest, when it’s going bad, this is the hardest game in the world. But when I was working on my game and practising at home, there were signs of improvement that give you confidence, even though there were times when I had a lot of pain and struggled to move.
“Only one bogey on this golf course is pleasing because limiting your mistakes here is key. But I’ve been doing a lot of things well for the past two days, and I’ve been putting the ball in the right places. That birdie on the eighth was a real bonus because I wasn’t taking all the chances that came my way, and then to make a 15-footer for birdie there was very pleasing.”
Behind him, Ahlers finds himself in contention going into a final round for his second tournament in succession. His 74 in the final round of the recent Dimension Data Pro-Am to relinquish his shot at that title will no doubt still rankle with him, and Friday’s final round offers the perfect chance to make amends. – Michael Vlismas
Photo: Carl Fourie/Sunshine Tour