5th December 2017 | Big Easy IGT Golf
Haig braves wet weather to lead at Kyalami
(PHOTO – Anton Haig; credit CJ du Plooy)
JOHANNESBURG, 5 December 2017 – It was a cold, wet and windy day at Kyalami Country Club, but Anton Haig was smiling in the driving rain as he pushed to the front in the ninth Race to Q-School event on the IGT Challenge Tour on Tuesday.
Returning to the scene of his breakthrough victory in 2016, the four-time international champion began the day six off the pace. Haig turned one under, but he racked up a trio of birdies from the 13th hole and birdied the closing hole for a three-under-par 69.
Having posted the lowest round of the day, Haig opened up a one stroke lead on three-under 141.
Philip Geerts from Italy shot 71 to tie for second with amateur pair Leon Visser and Peetie van der Merwe from Mpumalanga, who joined the party at two under with rounds of 76 and 75. Roberto Lupini and Tristen Strydom – both multiple winners – and Jacques de Villiers are a further shot back. Lupini carded 75, Strydom registered 73 and De Villiers returned a 74.
“It’s bunched at the top, so the fight is far from over, but it’s nice to be leading again,” said Haig.
“The weather turned really nasty this morning and we played in some proper rain. The wind blew quite strong, so conditions were tough. I didn’t strike the ball particularly well and the game definitely wasn’t great, but I birdied all four par fives and that got me the lead.
“When I missed, it was in a right spots. Like they say, if you pray hard enough, you get some lucky breaks. I putted well, though, my short-game was on. I had a two-putt birdie at 13 and I hit a gap-wedge to 15 feet at the short hole and made the putt. At 15, I hit a four-iron just short of the bunker and pitched a gap-wedge two feet from the pin.
Haig won three times last year on the country’s premier golf development circuit, but spent nearly eight months on the bench after surgery to his hip and knee late in 2017. The 29-year-old Dainfern golfer bounced back spectacularly with a fourth victory in the Killarney Challenge in April.
“You don’t come back and expect to shoot the lights out,” he said. “You have to be prepared to take things at a snail’s pace. I was very happy last year to get my feet wet on the IGT Challenge Tour and to get myself back to a competitive level.
“This year I mixed it up with some Big Easy Tour events and invites on the Sunshine Tour, just to take it up a notch. I also went to the European Tour Qualifying School in Spain, but I played poorly. I’m happy with the progress I’m making. The right hip flares up now and then, but I’m working hard to strengthen it. I’m not hitting it quite naturally yet, but it improves all the time.”