Michael Palmer brushed aside the after-effects of sinus surgery with a bogey-free seven-under-par 65 on Wednesday in the first round of the Sunshine Tour Invitational being played over 54 holes at Centurion Country Club.
That gave him a four-way share of the first-round lead with Estiaan Conradie, Adilson Da Silva and Jaco van Zyl. They were a shot ahead of Steve Surry of England, Jean Hugo and Albert Venter in a share of fifth, while there were seven players on five-under-par after the first round in a share of seventh.
“I didn’t know that I would even be able to play after I had sinus surgery on Friday,” said Palmer. “In the end, I had to pull out of the pro-am, but I decided to play in the tournament at the last minute. I took it on without having a practice round on the course, and, in fact, without any practice at all.”
It almost started badly for Palmer when he hit his tee-shot on the par-five first into the water. “I took the penalty drop, and managed to get up-and-down from about 100 metres to make par,” he said. “That was a great start for me, even though it was only a par.”
He settled himself down after that, and he made six birdies in eight holes around the turn – on the fifth, sixth, eight, ninth, 10th and 12th. There was just one more on his way in, but that was enough to give him that share of the lead.
“I last played the course back in 2015 when I was on the IGT Tour,” said Palmer. “I played it quite a few times that year, so I know it quite well. There are lots of birdie opportunities, and lots of risk-reward holes. It worked out well for me today, because I was on the reward side of that equation whenever I took a risk.”
The other players in the lead all managed to drop shots during their rounds. Conradie made a double-bogey on the fourth, and a bogey on the third, but he countered those lost shots with an eagle and eight birdies – six on the homeward nine. Da Silva had eight birdies and a bogey on the fourth, while Van Zyl had bogeys on 11 and 14, with an eagle-two on the par-four fifth and seven birdies.
For Palmer, it was a case of grabbing his chance with both hands after getting through the surgery relatively unscathed. “I take approved painkillers at night,” he said, “and sleeping is a problem, as I have to be on my back.”
He’ll be wide awake as he gets his second round underway and looks for more of the same as he got in his first round.