By Michael Vlismas
Richard Sterne is looking to become the first three-time winner of the Joburg Open when he returns to defend his title in the European and Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned tournament at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club this week.
The tournament tees off on Thursday on both the East and West golf courses, with the final two rounds played solely on the East.
Sterne became the first South African winner of the Joburg Open in 2008, and then claimed the biggest victory margin in the history of the tournament when he won it again last year by seven strokes.
And after two weeks playing in the Middle East, Sterne is obviously looking forward to his homecoming.
“I like the course and it’s always nice playing back in South Africa. I like that layout. It just suits my eye. And it’s a nice feeling knowing you’re defending champion. Maybe there’s a little pressure, maybe not. It’s a new year, new event, so last year doesn’t matter.”
But the way he took the title last year did a lot for Sterne’s confidence for the rest of the season. The Pretoria professional opened with a 63 and then stormed home with a final round of 64 to win by seven over Charl Schwartzel.
“It was nice to put in a good round and win by seven in the end. It’s nice to have a few shots going into the last few holes and not needing to worry and just enjoy it. A 64 on the final day was nice too. I hit some nice shots and made some putts when it counted. That gave me the confidence for the rest of the year.”
As he looks ahead to this week, Sterne says he’s hoping for a bit more consistency in his game.
“I’ve had it going a couple of times but just not finished off the round. That’s been frustrating. The game is feeling better and I’m hitting a lot of good shots. If I can just get everything together and not throw away silly shots, I’ll be competing to win.”