There’s more than a maiden European Tour victory beckoning for Jaco van Zyl as he leads into the final round of the Alstom Open de France: A spot in the Open Championship beckons, and that would be his first appearance in the world’s most important major championship.
The 36-year-old has won 13 times on the Sunshine Tour, but his two-stroke lead outside Paris after his superb seven-under-par 64 on Saturday has given him a shot at his first European Tour title and an opportunity to become the ninth South African who will tee it up from July 16 at St Andrews.
Van Zyl was out of golf for much of 2014 getting knee surgery to correct a long-running issue, and, while he had a good start to his return in 2015, he endured a lean patch until his share of 16th in the Irish Open an of 29th in last week’s BMW International Open in Germany.
After a second round which had three bogeys and a double bogey as he carded a level-par 71, Van Zyl came back with a vengeance at Le Golf National, overpowering the intimidating closing stretch of four holes with scores of par-birdie-par-birdie – and, in particular, getting his own back on the 18th on which he made his second-round double with an exquisite approach to inside two feet.
He led Maximilian Kieffer going into the final round, with the German carding a fine six-under himself. Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger on seven-under in third, three shots behind the South African.
Three players shared fourth on six-under: James Morrison, who bogeyed 18 to slip back slightly, Martin Kaymer, and home-town favourite Victor Dubuisson.
Two other South Africans had rousing third rounds to move into a share of 14th: Trevor Fisher Jnr carded a 65, and Jake Roos a 66 to be four-under for the tournament, six behind Van Zyl.