Jaco van Zyl tees off in the final round of the South African Open Championship at Glendower Golf Club on Sunday with his sights firmly set on a top-10 finish.
The 34-year-old had a good start to his year on home soil with three victories – the Dimension Data Pro-Am, the Telkom PGA Championship and the Investec Cup – but it has been an oddly quiet year for him on the European Tour with six missed cuts, a retirement and a withdrawal in his 22 events ahead of the SA Open.
That flying start in South Africa sees him lying third on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, behind leader Darren Fichardt and second-placed Dawie van der Walt.
And the significance of that is that it puts him within touching distance of a spot in this year’s Nedbank Golf Challenge, according to the new exemption criteria which will see Fichardt added to the field on Monday as the unchallenged leader of the Order of Merit then.
Van Zyl has to make up R286,112.84 on Van der Walt, who has missed the cut at the SA Open and will not, as a result, be winning any money this week to add to his 2013 haul.
That means Van Zyl needs to finish alone in 10th or better at Glendower to play his way into the elite 30-man field of the Nedbank Golf Challenge – and he starts his final round in a share of 11th at nine-under-par, six off the 15-under-par pace set by Charl Schwartzel.
“It’s always been in the back of my mind,” said Van Zyl of the opportunity to play in an iconic South African tournament. “There’s a lot of expectation and it’s a big nudge in the right direction if I manage to get in.”