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‘Patient’ Lombard edges closer to European Tour cardSolid Lombard edges closer to European Tour card Zander Lombard on Wednesday played himself into a share of the lead after the fifth round of the European Tour’s Final Qualifying Stage, putting himself in a solid position to finish among the top 25 which will earn their European Tour playing privileges for next season. Lombard shot seven-under-par on day five to share the first spot with Kurt Kitayama of America and Romain Langasque of France at Lumine Golf Club, Spain. The 23-year-old player opened his round with back-to-back birdies on 10th and 11th, his first two holes of the round, and two more on 13th and 18th. But he then spoilt his round with the only bogey at the turn. He then added four more birdies on his scorecard which he made on his 11th, 14th, 16th and last holes to total 21-under-par 336 for the week, and with one round left to play. “It was just very solid,” he said about his fifth round. “I had a sloppy little bogey on the first hole but from there I just stayed really patient and like any low round you don’t really plan it you just stick to your processes. “I felt that I was just short of making the line so many times this year. Every time I seemed to have a good round, I would go on to shoot an average one which would then kill the momentum and I’d miss the cut.” The 2018 Vodacom Origins of Golf Zebula winner had a rough season on the European Tour as he made only six cuts out of 29 starts this season. “It has been a building season for me, I have changed a lot of things in my game and it has been a learning curve for me because I realised that I can’t make it on raw talent alone.” Louis de Jager is in a share of 27th on 14-under-par for the week while Bryce Easton is T41 on 12-under-par for the week. Eye of Africa PGA Championship champion Matias Calderon and reigning Cape Town Open champion Rhys Enoch are among those who missed the cut.
Van Rooyen debuts at Jumeirah 1Van Rooyen debuts at Jumeirah Erik van Rooyen’s solid rookie season on the European Tour has earned him an opportunity some will only dream of - teeing it up at the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estate, Dubai. Positioned 37th and as is one of top 60 players on the Race to Dubai after last week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player, Van Rooyen qualifies for season-ending event in the United Arab Emirates. The 28-year-old player who got his European Tour playing card via a fourth-place finish on the Road to Ras Al Khaimah on the Challenge Tour last season, has one runner-up finish at the Joburg Open, four top-ten finishes, four top-20s and six missed cuts in 24 starts in his maiden season as a full member of the European Tour. His superb season so far is just a continuation from where he left off in 2017 when he won the Eye of Africa PGA Championship on the local circuit. He went on to win the Hainan Open on Challenge Tour as he searched for European Tour playing privileges. He also secured five top-10 finishes while missing four cuts in 21 starts on the Challenge Tour. He carried that rich form into the new season of the European Tour and despite a disappointing share of 60th last week at the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player where the results betrayed the effort, Van Rooyen has everything it takes to compete among the elite golfers. While making it to the final event on the Race to Dubai is no easy feat for any seasoned professional, let alone one in his rookie season, Van Rooyen will be pleased with his effort during the season and will hope for a better finish at this US$8 million event. Dean Burmester, Darren Fichardt, Branden Grace, Dylan Frittelli and Brandon Stone are the other South Africans teeing it up in Dubai this week.  
Norris takes aim at AugustaNorris takes aim at Augusta Shaun Norris’ feats on the Japan Golf Tour – where he has won a title in each of the last three seasons – continue to push him up the world ranking and a few good results in the last tournaments of the regular season might see him with a shot at the Masters tournament next year. He started the season at the back of a career-high world ranking of 160 following a stellar 2017 season in which he claimed the second of his Japan Golf Tour titles and made his debut at the 146th The Open Championship. Now, five top 10s, two runner-up finishes and a win have characterised what’s been another solid season for Norris in the east as he chases his maiden Order of Merit on any Tour. But, that is just a by-the-way thing. While he has been racking up results in Asia and on the Sunshine Tour, his world ranking kept rising as a result. A third-place share with Finland’s Tapio Pulkanen in last season’s Joburg Open early in the year earned him another ticket to only his second Major appearance; the 147th Open Championship, on account of ranking higher than the Finn in the world at the time. He is not showing any signs of slowing down this season, either, as a third-place finish at the Mitsui Sumitomo VISA Taiheiyo Masters last week moved him from 76th to 72nd, his best ranking yet. Now, with less than five events left on this year’s schedule of the Japan Golf Tour and a few events co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour, the European Tour and the Asian Tour still to play, Norris’ upward march seems unstoppable. Unless, of course, he starts playing really badly. As things stand, however, the two-time Sunshine Tour winner looks poised for a spot in the top 50 in the world before the end of the year. And that holds the promise of yet another Major appearance, at the Masters tournament this time. If Norris secures the Order of Merit in Japan and puts together solid results in the co-sanctioned events which start at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open at Anahita, his way to Augusta National suddenly becomes a lot easier. If he misses the top 50 at the end of the year, however, there are other opportunities to get into it ahead of the Masters and that’s something he will draw motivation from. He has to keep playing and delivering the results as he has been doing, however, for this to happen.
Lombard’s Sunshine Tour form continues in SpainLombard’s Sunshine Tour form continues in Spain Despite his visible struggles on the Europe Tour this season, Zander Lombard – who has shown signs of the potential he has in the two Sunshine Tour events he’s played this season – has played solid golf in the opening two rounds of the European Tour’s Final Qualifying Stage at Lumine Golf Club, Spain. In a real risk of losing both his Sunshine Tour card and his European Tour playing privileges, Lombard entered qualifying school in the final stage and showed some form. He cared a blemish-free seven-under-par 64 on The Hills layout at Lumine in a bullish exhibition of good form. Four birdies in five holes on a bogey-free front nine plus three more birdies on an equally flawless homeward nine gave him a confidence-boosting start. The second round – played on The Lakes course – was just as solid despite a double-bogey on his card. The par-72 Lakes course seemed to offer Lombard very little in the way of a challenge. He made three birdies on the front but these were accompanied by the double on the fourth hole. He was not going to allow any more bogeys onto his card as he went on a three-birdie-trot from the 10th through to the 12th. His solid start follows a solid fourth-place finish at the Vodacom Origins of Golf finals at Pinnacle Point Golf Estate, where he was making only his second Sunshine Tour start. His first start was at Zebula where he won the first Vodacom Origins of Golf tournament in this season’s series. With Lombard in the final stage are fellow South Africans Louis de Jager, Jean-Paul Strydom, Bryce Easton, Oliver Bekker, JC Ritchie, Trevor Fisher Jnr and reigning Eye of Africa PGA Championship champion, Matias Calderon. De Jager is on a good wave of form since his Sibaya Challenge which ended his four-year winless run and his first two rounds of 71 and 66 in the six-round final stage leave him 10-shots behind the leader. Meanwhile, Bekker has had a decent season on the Challenge Tour, boasting two top 10s and top 20s but lying 14-shots off the lead in Tarragona after rounds of 73 and 68, he will want a better performance in the next four days. Like Bekker, Easton has had a decent season on the Challenge Tour but 12-shots off the early lead, he will want an improved four rounds of golf in the few days to come. Ritchie and Strydom are in a share of 112th, while at three-over-par, Trevor Fisher has his work cut out for him in the four days to come, in Spain.
Oosthuizen proud of his effort in Sun CityOosthuizen proud of his effort in Sun City While Louis Oosthuizen’s third-place finish at last week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player might be short of what he wanted, even as it was the best finish he has posted there in the last four years, he was still happy with his effort in Sun City. “Yeah, it's not the result I wanted,” he said about 11-under-par 277 total which saw him finish in third position and four shots behind Lee Westwood of England who came out victorious. “I played really well today,” he noted, “and, was up in the leaderboard there for a while. But Westwood, the way he played the back nine -- I was pushing hard at the end to try something. Proud of the way I handled it. I felt I gave myself a lot of birdie opportunities and I played really well. Just had to do too much there at the end.” Oosthuizen’s finish was his best finish in the event as he shared eighth in 2017, finished ninth in 2016 -the year where he also shot a 66, his best round in this event – and he shared seventh in 2014. The 36-year-old has plenty of positives to take out from his week in Sun City. “Yeah, definitely,” he said on Sunday. “I played well today. There's not much I could have done more. I made good putts. I missed a few easier putts, but all in all, you know, I attacked when I wanted to attack and I pulled a lot of good shots off. “Big thing today for me was committing to the shot and taking it on, and don't really matter what the outcome was. I did all that. There was maybe one or two I didn't pull off. There's not much more I can ask for.” He also enjoyed a great support from the home crowd although he’s a bit disappointed he could not finish the job in front of all of them. “Yeah, it was good. It would have been nicer if I could lift the trophy for them but again, hats off to Lee the way he played today. 8-under around that golf course without a dropped shot is good golf.” Oosthuizen moves up two spots from 39th to 37th on the Official World Golf Ranking this week.  
Westwood secures third Sun City win in brilliant displayIt took Lee Westwood over four years to chalk up his 43rd tournament victory, and when he won the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gray Player by three strokes on Sunday, the relief was palpable. The popular Englishman fired a superlative bogey-free round of eight-under-par 64 around the demanding Gary Player Country Club – the longest course on this season’s European Tour schedule – to shut out strong finishes by Sergio Garcia of Spain and local favourite Louis Oosthuizen. “I’m a bit emotional to be honest,” said Westwood as he emerged from score recording. “You’re never sure whether you’re going to be able to do it again. Until now, my emotions have felt really under control all day, which is what I’ve been working on.” He played as if he had iced-water in his veins as he turned the screws on overnight leader Garcia, who bogeyed the first, and on Oosthuizen who looked as if he might emerge victorious with three birdies in his first seven holes. Westwood, the 2010 and 2011 champion at Sun City, eagled the second hole to move into a share of the lead, and then, after missing good birdie opportunities around the turn on nine and 10, birdied five of the last eight holes to pull clear. Garcia shot a closing 70, and Oosthuizen, after making bogey on 15 to fall back into Westwood’s clutches, made double-bogey six on 18 to slip four shots behind Westwood in third place. Westwood slammed the door shot on Oosthuizen with his birdie on 17, where a birdie putt found the bottom of the cup in full view of the South African and Garcia who were on the 17th tee was it happened. “That seven-iron into 17 is probably one of the best shots I’ve ever hit,” he said. “I came off it a little bit off the 17th tee and slid it out to the right. But it gave me a good number in with a seven-iron, and the wind managed to stay in the right direction for long enough. Just turned it in off the TV tower to 10 feet and rolled the putt in.” Oosthuizen knew the game was up when he saw that, but tried valiantly – and came close – to make a birdie of his own on 17. “The birdie he made on 17, I knew I had to finish birdie-birdie. I had a 15 -foot putt for birdie, and probably the best putt I had today and right at the end it decided to turn the other way. That hurt, because that was the one I needed. Then I could have a little bit more focus on 18. But that sort of knocked all the energy out of me. Knowing I needed to make a two down the last and I probably tried a bit too much.” Garcia was full of praise for Westwood’s performance. “You have to give credit to Lee. To shoot 64 in the last round is not easy,” he said. “I’m thrilled for him. He had a bad Ryder Cup at Hazeltine and he struggled a little bit, and he’s been playing much better this year. He’s been knocking on the door for a while.” For Westwood, the victory will take him back inside the top 100 in the world, after two periods at world number one which ended in May 2011. “Still got it, I guess. Just nice to do it again under pressure and win against a couple of quality players at the end there,” he said. “To hit the shots I hit down the stretch, it was just nice to prove it to myself again.”  
Fichardt right where he wants to be at Sun CityDarren Fichardt hung on grimly during a tough day to card a third-round one-over-par 71 and position himself for an unlikely charge at the title on the final day of the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player. While he was six shots off the pace set by Sergio Garcia after 54 holes, such are the vagaries of scoring on the Gary Player Country Cub course that a low round for Fichardt and a battle for Garcia are not entirely out of the question. “It’s hard to stay patient out there,” said Fichardt. “I think this golf course can be tricky. You can make a big number very easily. So I’m glad I’m still there. I’ve still got a chance. Shoot a really good number, a low number in the final round and I might have a chance.” He finished last year’s Nedbank Golf Challenge in a share of sixth, six shots behind winner Branden Grace, after he fired a closing four-under-par 68. His third round this year was something of a struggle as he turned in two-over-par 38 with three bogeys and a birdie on his card. He pulled it back with three birdies on his way home for his 71 on a day which gave up very little by way of low scores to the field. “I’m very happy with the fight back,” he said, “especially when you feel a little depleted; walking off nine, I felt like, here we go, this could be a big number, you know, because shoulders started dropping a bit and started feeling a bit of disappointment. Made a birdie on 10 and then a really good up-and-down. I think 12 is what kick-started my round. Then I birdied 13, 14. Really needed that. Two pars on 17 and 18. They are really tough holes.” A solid start in the final round could see him start to climb and put some scoreboard pressure on Garcia. “Third round is always a bit of an iffy round,” he said. “It’s just sort of positioning. Positioning yourself to get yourself ready to have go, to have a chance at winning. Yeah, I think I’m where I want to be.”  
Auto Draft 89It was almost ‘anti-moving day’ on Saturday in the third round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player as Sergio Garcia emerged from a day of attrition with a lead of just two strokes after his one-under-par 71 at Gary Player Country Club. The Spaniard has been in front since the first round, and he looked as if he was going to be further in front heading into the final round until untimely bogeys on 13 and 18 saw his momentum halted, while South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen’s birdie on 18 put him in touch with the lead. “I feel like I played pretty well,” said Garcia. “Again, I put the ball in play nicely throughout the day. Just unfortunately pulled it a little bit on 18. Not an easy tee shot into the wind on the left. But other than that, I felt like I did quite well. “Two or three more putts could have rolled in and it would have been a really good round in very tough conditions, and you know, other than that, I felt like I managed my game quite nicely and shooting under par, it’s always a good thing.” He started his round with birdies on two and three, and with home favourite Oosthuizen seeming ill at ease with his game on the day and making pars all the way until he dropped a shot on the seventh, his lead looked secure. The threat to Garcia looked to be coming from further behind, with Belgian Thomas Detry and England’s Ross Fisher making significant moves up the leaderboard. Detry carded a four-under-par 68 to finish the day in a share of third with two-time champion Lee Westwood and Finn Mikko Korhonen. Fisher’s five-under 67 was the best round of the day, and he goes into the final round in sixth, one ahead of Darren Fichardt of South Africa. Garcia, like Westwood, is a two-time champion at Sun City, but he’s not sure that’s significant at all. “I don’t think it’s any advantage,” he said. “It’s something that you have in your pocket I guess, but once you’re out there, it’s tough for everyone, and winning here doesn’t mean that it’s easier for you to do it. You know, every tournament is tough and this one is no different.” Oosthuizen is chasing his first victory at Sun City, and it’s one which is much coveted by every South African. He worked hard to stay in touch after feeling early on that things were not going to be easy for him on the day. “I realised early on that it was a round I needed to keep together and not really blow myself out of the tournament,” he said. “I hung in there nicely. These are the rounds you take a lot of positive out; if you don't play well and you’re still in it to win. “You know, the birdie on the last was a big momentum shift for me going into tomorrow, and two behind is a lot better than four behind. But yeah, it was a tough day. I just need to dial in a bit tomorrow and hopefully hit it a little better.” For Garcia, however, it will be more of the same. “I know the course is going to be playing tough again,” he said. “I’m going to go out and try to shoot under par like I’ve done all three days. I think I’m going to see if I can shoot below 70 and see if that’s good enough.”  
Oosthuizen’s 67 puts him in touch with Sun City leadLouis Oosthuizen took advantage of Sergio Garcia’s battling homeward nine at Gary Player Country Club on Friday to fire a five-under-par 67 and move within one of the halfway lead of the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player. Oosthuizen three-putted the eighth hole for the second day in succession as he made double bogey there, but five birdies and an eagle saw him reach 36 holes in eight-under-par 136. “You know, the eighth hole, I don’t feel like I really have a club for that hole to tee off,” he said. “I want to hit three-iron, but it’s probably the narrowest part of the fairway where you want to hit three-iron and trying to hit it a long way, as well. It’s just a tough tee shot on my eye, and I have to work on that tomorrow.” Garcia still has the lead, however, and the Spanish champion from 2001 and 2003 is nothing if not experienced around a course he says is playing very tough. The 2017 Masters champion carded a one-under-par 71, with three bogeys on the way in to go with the one he made on the fifth, which was the first of his week. “The course is tough,” he said. “Not every day you’re going to go out there and shoot 64. It doesn’t work like that. I feel like I played quite well. Obviously three three-putts, that’s never ideal. But on these greens, it can happen. They are so quick and some of the pins are so tucked to the edges that it’s difficult to hit it close to them. “But you know, other than that, I felt like I played well throughout the whole day. I stayed positive. I stayed calm and just a shame that, I wanted to shoot something below 70. I felt like I had a chance of doing it. Unfortunately it didn’t work out but we’re still in the lead.” For Oosthuizen, things really went his way because he was playing very well. “Not looking at the one tee shot that I hit on eight, I feel like I’m hitting it well off the tee,” he said. “I’m finding the fairways and my iron-play has been good for a while. I’m doing everything well. I’m just not making those putts that look like they are going in. I’m hitting very good putts. I haven’t hit many bad putts this week. You just need those putts to go in to win events.” Finland’s Miko Korhonen fired a two-under-par 70 to nestle into third spot, two behind Oosthuizen. And two shots further back was a group of four players on four-under-par, just five off the lead. That group included South Africa’s Dylan Frittelli, Englishman Aaron Rai, Ireland’s Shane Lowry and two-time champion at Sun City, Lee Westwood of England. Defending champion Branden Grace was another stroke back on three-under at the halfway mark, and by no means out of contention after his battling 71. “I missed three putts inside three or four feet and that’s pretty costly around here,” said Grace. “That can turn a great round into an average round like it did at the end of the day. But I’m still in there.” So is Oosthuizen. “I need a good, solid round tomorrow,” he said. “I don’t have to really attack or do anything crazy, but just a solid round to put me in a good spot for Sunday. I’m very excited. I’ve got quite a few friends and family here and obviously the home crowd behind me. It should be fun playing tomorrow.”  
Schwartzel puzzled by change to 18th at Sun CitySchwartzel puzzled by change to 18th at Sun City Despite making a birdie there in the first round, Charl Schwartzel is not enamoured of the changes made on the 18th hole at the Gary Player County Club for this year’s edition of the Nedbank Golf Challenge. The 18th has developed into an iconic finishing hole in South African golf over 36 years of the Nedbank Golf Challenge. They have changed the tee box, moved it over the cart path and made the tee shot longer, to Schwartzel’s surprise. “Yeah, I don't think it’s very clever,” he said after his first round at Sun City on Thursday. “I would have left it where it was. I would have taken out the fairway bunker rather. Make the guys play more aggressive. Bring the water into play. If the guy is willing enough to hit it far enough up there, give him a nine-iron in and make him make a birdie for a more exciting finish. It’s the biggest grandstands on the golf course, and you make the hole long, basically just everyone is just playing for par.” Schwartzel was talking after finishing the first round tied second on four-under-par 68 which put him and two other players four strokes behind Sergio Garcia of Spain. Always a thinker when he plays, Schwartzel had some other thoughts about the course. “You know, on this course, starting off here is key. I got off to a good start, made one bogey today and that was on eight. The wind turned on us so came up way short. Drove the ball really well, basically hit the ball really good. It was a good start,” he said. “This golf course, you can never take it for granted until the 72nd hole. It really tests you every single hole, every single shot you hit. You know, you’ve got to stay committed, keep firing and if you pull off the shot it’s going to be your week,” he said. He also thinks that the score will be better than the 11-under which Branden Grace won with last year. “You know, four four-unders is never far away on this golf course, especially the way it is with no rough now. I know last year 11-under won, but anything there, 15-, 16-under is normally very close,” he said.
Grace happy with start to title defence in Sun CityGrace happy with start to title defence in Sun City Defending champion of the Nedbank Golf Challenge presented by Gary Player, Branden Grace, feels that his opening two-under-par 70 at the Gary Player Country Club is a decent start to his title defence in Sun City. “Great to round to start a defence,” he said with certainty. “It’s never easy defending a title so anything under par was pretty decent. Obviously playing with Rory McIlroy, as well, so it was a good day.” Grace’s front nine looked as though he was playing things safe, dropping a shot on the par-four fifth and making a birdie on the next hole. “Very solid,” he said, dissecting his first round. “Couple iffy shots here and there and the one on the pa-five, but it was good. Made a nice couple of putts, as well, get a couple of birdies on the scorecard but it was a good day in all. “I thought I gave myself some chances but I never really gave myself some great birdie chances. Made some nice putts from 25, 30 feet and never got it really close. When I did, either left it out or short, but all in all very happy with the ball-striking. Nice to keep those numbers off the scorecard, as well, and very excited for what's to come.” Tucked in mountainous terrain where the wind tends to swirl and change direction at any time, the Gary Player Country Club is a real challenge, and Grace, who was able to navigate his way to a win here last year, knows what’s required to do well and possibly have a chance of defending his title at the weekend. “You have to stay patient,” he cautioned, “and the wind swirls a lot especially being inside of these mountains. It wasn’t that it was awfully tough. There was a little bit of wind, but the wind was changing direction every single shot you were hitting.” Tied for the 11th spot on the leaderboard after round one in Sun City, Grace knows – especially after witnessing Sergio Garcia blaze through the course to card a flawless 64 – that there are low scores out there and with golf changing as much as it does, a better score in the second round will bring him closer to a title defence. But, there’s a lot of work to be done and judging by Garcia’s opening round, things are still going to get interesting.  
Garcia storms to first-round Sun City leadHis previous experiences around Gary Player Country Club helped Sergio Garcia to a first-round 64 on Thursday, and the blemish-free eight-under-par total saw him finish with a four-stroke lead in the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player. He birdied the first hole of the day in a sign of things to come, and then twice reeled off three birdies in a row – between nine and 11, and again between 15 and 17 – to finish four clear of Finn Miko Korhonen, Mike Lorenzo-Vera of France and local Charl Schwartzel. “I felt great,” said Garcia afterwards. “I rolled the ball nicely. I made some good putts here and there. One of those rounds where things kind of happened nicely to me. I think I played very smart. I probably wasn’t swinging unbelievably, but I kept it under control. I kept the ball in play all the time, which is difficult to do here.” For Garcia, the 2017 Masters champion, and the winner at Sun City in 2001 and 2003, being able to read the swirling winds around a course situated in a bowl of mountains was key to his great start. “I managed to guess some of the winds here right,” he said. “That is very, very difficult, and you know, when you can do that here, it’s nice to be able to shoot a score like I did. This is not a golf course that plays easy when it’s a little bit breezy like it was today. When it swirls, it’s even tougher.” On a day on which many of the big names found trouble at least once or twice during the round – favourite Rory McIlroy made two bogeys and a double – Garcia’s performance was all the more impressive. He didn’t try to overpower the course. “It’s very important to keep the ball in play as much as possible here and that’s what I was trying to do when I didn’t feel comfortable with the driver,” he said. “If it got too narrow, I hit something less than that and tried to play the hole maybe a little bit tougher. It worked out well. “I managed to keep the ball in play nicely. I hit a lot of greens, which is important to do here with the little spots that you can put the pins in, and I managed to roll some nice putts.” His putting was certainly impressive, particularly on nine and 11. On nine, he rolled in a 35-footer for eagle, and his birdie putt on 11 hit the hole at speed to go in. “Obviously they are not the kind of putts that you expect to make,” he said, “but when you give yourself a lot of chances, obviously your possibilities of making them are a little bit bigger and I was able to roll in three or four really nice putts.” Behind Garcia, Lorenza-Vera was bogey-free for his 68, while Korhonen and Schwartzel each dropped just once. A further stroke back on 69 was a group of six players, which included South Africa’s 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen. He got off to a fast start and was four-under after seven, but a bogey at eight seemed to unsettle him and he made just one more birdie and another bogey on his way home. Defending champion Branden Grace carded a tow-under 70 to find himself six off the pace. While Garcia’s lead seems big, he of all people knows it’s not insurmountable. “It’s still the first day,” he said. “There’s still a lot of golf to be played and a lot of tough days to come around. It’s nice to start like that, but I’m not going to lie. There’s still a lot of golf to be played.”  

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