SUN CITY (Reuters) - Sweden's Henrik Stenson overcame a bout of illness to share the lead with South African Jaco van Zyl after the first round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club on Thursday.
The 39-year-old posted five birdies in his opening nine holes to set the early pace but was tentative with the putter on the back nine and added just one more birdie to his scorecard.
Stenson, a previous winner of the tournament dubbed 'Africa's Major', had felt poorly since arriving at Sun City.
“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 about a five percent 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, 36, also hit six birdies on his debut appearance at a tournament he usually watches from the comfort of his sofa.
“There are two events I watch on television every single year,” Van Zyl told reporters after his blemish-free round of 66.
“One is the Masters and the other is this. Normally I’m getting ready for a stint in front of the TV at this time of year, but today I had to go and work.”
Defending champion Danny Willet of England missed a birdie chance on the 18th hole for a tie of the lead and finished five-under-par with a 67.
Australian Marc Leishman and home favorite Branden Grace are on four-under.
The 30-man field benefited from rain earlier in the day, which took the edge off the hot conditions in South Africa's North West province, which characterized the days before the tournament start.
Reporting by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Justin Palmer; firstname.lastname@example.org; +27828257807; Reuters Messaging: Reuters Messaging: email@example.com