Alex Haindl took another major step forward in his comeback from injury as he opened with a five-under-par 67 to lead the first round of the Sunshine Tour’s SunBet Challenge hosted by Sun City at the Gary Player Country Club on Wednesday.
Haindl, who is currently playing on a medical exemption for a back injury, leads by two shots over Jaco van Zyl and Luke Jerling following their rounds of 69.
Teeing off the first, Haindl birdied two of his first three holes. He turned at one under after a bogey on the difficult eighth, but he claimed that shot back with a birdie on the 10th. And then he closed with three birdies in his last five holes.
Haindl is hunting his first Sunshine Tour title since 2018 and the fourth of his career. A solid opening round on the challenging Gary Player Country Club course is exactly what he would’ve hoped for as he continues to work his way back from back surgery.
“I had a dynamic fusion in my back in 2015, but unfortunately that failed at the end of 2018 when I was having a really good year. It just collapsed and the screws literally came loose in my back. Then they had to fuse my back. So I’ve been working on strengthening it ever since,” he said.
All of which makes such a good start on the Gary Player Country Club course all the more rewarding.
“It’s nice to get off to a bit of a better start. I just tried to stay in play off the tees and take whatever I could from there. This course is a real grind. To be honest, this has never been a course I’ve felt suits my game because I’ve never felt I’m really long enough. But I had a nice round today and that builds a bit of confidence. I felt like I kept it in play nicely. So hopefully I can stick to my gameplan and hopefully that leads to another two good rounds.”
Van Zyl’s opening round was highlighted by him holing out with his second on the par-four first hole, which played as his 10th hole of the day.
Zambia’s Madalitso Muthiya is currently fourth following an opening two-under-par 70. – Michael Vlismas
Photo: Carl Fourie/Sunshine Tour