Sun City – Local hope Jaco Van Zyl and flu-victim Henrik Stenson shared the early lead with matching first round six-under par 66s in the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City on Thursday.
English defending champion Danny Willett was a shot further back in third with Van Zyl’s fellow South African Branden Grace and Australian Marc Leishman leading the chasing pack at four-under par.
This is the second European Tour event of 2016 after last week’s season-opening Alred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek Country Club won for the fourth time by Charl Schwartzel.
Stenson showed no signs of his illness-disrupted run-up to Sun City, rattling off six birdies to sit atop the leaderboard where he was joined by Van Zyl, aiming for his first EPGA title.
Stenson, who won this event in 2008, has nine to his name. The Swede could have taken the outright lead but missed the chance to go ahead on the 17th after a brilliant recovery from a deep fairway bunker.
“I’ve been in bed with the flu for three days, and after I had to pull out of the pro-am on Tuesday I probably had a five per cent chance of playing,” he said.
“I felt quite a bit better this morning and the doctor didn’t see any reason why I couldn’t play.
“I’m delighted with the score but the last few holes I completely ran out of energy. From the 14th onwards my legs were like jelly and it was a real struggle.”
Van Zyl, who has 13 Sunshine Tour wins, was also bogey-free with birdies on the second, third and ninth accompanying his fast finish to leave him a shot ahead of Willett.
66 – Jaco Van Zyl (RSA), Henrik Stenson (SWE)
67 – Danny Willett (ENG)
68 – Marc Leishman (AUS), Branden Grace (RSA)
69 – Robert Streb (USA), Ross Fisher (ENG), Matthew Fitzpatrick (ENG), Russell Knox (SCO)
70 – Bernd Wiesberger (AUT), Miguel Angel Jimnez (ESP), Louis Oosthuizen (RSA), Thongchai Jaidee (THA), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA), Chris Wood (ENG)
71 – Victor Dubuisson (FRA), Charl Schwartzel (RSA), Andy Sullivan (ENG), Tommy Fleetwood (ENG)
72 – Emiliano Grillo (ARG), An Byeong-Hun (KOR), Keegan Bradley (USA), Lee Westwood (ENG)
73 – Thomas Aiken (RSA), Scott Piercy (USA)
74 – Soren Kjeldsen (DEN), Shane Lowry (IRL)
75 – Martin Kaymer (GER), Webb Simpson (USA)
77 – Steven Bowditch (AUS)