29th November 2019 | Sunshine Tour
Steady Aiken back in the swing of things
Thomas Aiken carded a level-par 72 on Friday in the second round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship being played at Leopard Creek, and while it might not give him the halfway lead at the end of the day, being back in contention is a good place for the eight-time winner on the Sunshine Tour.
It was a tough 2019 for the 36-year-old, with wife Kate left dangerously ill and haemorrhaging after the birth of their second child. And that was followed by their home in the Bahamas being hit by Hurricane Dorian. So it was not surprising to have Aiken absent from his regular European Tour stamping ground.
And while his scorecard was dotted with three birdies and three bogeys, level-par was a solid score on a tough day in the heat of Leopard Creek. “I made a few bad mistakes coming in but all in all, there’s a lot of golf left,” he said. “I’m very happy with where I’m positioned and I don’t think anyone’s going to get too far away. It’s possible that four-under might lead, but I think it will be around six or seven.”
The absence from the fairways unsettled him, but he’s settling back into his work. “It’s difficult coming back after not playing for seven months, because you don’t know where you stand, especially from a competitive standpoint,” he said. “But I played five tournaments at the end of last season, and it was hit or miss really. I felt like I played well when I missed the cut by one and then I felt like I played poorly sometimes when I finished 21st. The golf is there. It’s just a matter of getting tournaments under the belt again.”
For a man who has been a professional since 2002, it was difficult for him to be out of action. “First, it’s weird not playing,” he said. “Second, it’s weird having started the year so well, then not playing and then, when starting again, it almost feels as if you’re under pressure to keep your card because I wasn’t playing anywhere near the number of events I would normally play.
“It’s interesting from a mental point of view, but you’ve just got to put that in the back of your mind and go out and play golf. Irrespective of where I finish in the seven events available to me for my medical exemption on the European Tour, I think I finished high enough to get some sort of category for the 2020 season. I’m going to play at least 22 events anyway.”
While he was well-positioned at the halfway stage at Leopard Creek, he had a chuckle about how tough the course played on Friday. “It’s like playing ‘Beauty and the Beast’!” he chuckled. “The golf course looks beautiful but the pin positions are beasts.”