Alex Haindl dropped just a single shot on Wednesday in the opening round of the SunBet Challenge hosted by Sun City at Gary Player Country Club on his way to a five-under-par 67.
The 38-year-old from Bloemfontein dropped his shot on the tough eighth at Sun City, and, but for that blemish, he was in impressive form as he took advantage of three of the four par-fives, missing out only on the ninth. There were three more birdies on the par-four third, the par-three 16th, and the tough par-four 17th as he takes a two-stroke lead into the second round of the 54-hole event.
He leads from veteran Jaco van Zyl and left-handed Luke Jerling from Port Elizabeth. They had a one-stroke advantage over fourth-placed Madalitso Muthiya, and there were seven players in a share of fifth on one-under-par.
It was an impressive performance from Haindl, who has had an indifferent start to the 2021 Sunshine Tour campaign. He made just three cuts in the seven tournaments so far, with a best finish of a share of 10th in the Players Championship at Dainfern back in March. It was there where he produced four rounds in the 60s, as well as carding his best round of the season, a six-under 66.
His 67 at Sun City would have been particularly pleasing to him, as so many of the players who had showed good form in the three tournaments co-sanctioned with the Challenge Tour battled to score well on the Gary Player Country Club layout.
Haindl has three wins on the Sunshine Tour, the 2006 Suncoast Classic, the 2017 Sun Sibaya Challenge and the 2018 Vodacom Origins of Golf event at St Francis Links. He has battled back problems for a long time, and has spent long periods away from the game.