Aiken ready to step into limelight now

Thomas Aiken is just one win away from becoming the next South African name that world golf commentators will think hit them from the blindside.

At least they won’t battle as much as they did with Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen to pronounce it correctly.

“I’m one win away from getting into the top 50 in the world,” said Aiken during a break back in South Africa from his campaigning on the European Tour and forays onto the US PGA Tour.

“Playing in all the majors – that’s the aim,” he said as he looked back on the start to his year and the seismic response in South Africa and around the world to Schwartzel’s Masters victory.

“I was on a plane on that Sunday when Charl was winning,” said Aiken, “and I got the pilot to come and tell me what was happening every 20 minutes.”

That he and Schwartzel are such good friends made things even sweeter for Aiken – and gave him a yardstick to measure the strength of South African golf, and where his own game could take him.

“South African golf is stronger than it has ever been,” he said, “and Charl’s win gave us all a glimpse of what we are capable of doing.”

And Aiken’s capabilities are those he has been nurturing in a thoughtful way while some of his contemporaries have been becoming more illustrious and twisting the tongues of television commentators all over the world.

It didn’t seem all that thoughtful at the beginning of the year when he reeled off 10 consecutive tournaments. “I pushed the envelope a bit then,” he admitted, “and in the end it was mental fatigue, more than anything else, that got to me.”

As ever, one of the reasons Aiken played 10 in a row was selfless: “I do feel obligated to play in the Sunshine Tour events,” he said. “After all, without the tour, we would not have the chances to play where and when we do, and we would not have the successes we have been having,” he said.

But what playing so much did show Aiken was that he belongs up there. “I was up there every week, and it feels as if I can win every week I tee it up,” he said.

“And right now, I’d rather have consistency than pulling off a win one week, and then getting nothing else for the next 10 months. It’s a matter of time before Sunday is going to be my day,” he added.

So after the break Aiken is taking in South Africa, he heads back to Europe on May 1 for the Open de España, followed by the Iberdrola Open in Mallorca.

“After that, I will prepare in London for the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth – that’s one of my focus tournaments, and I need to step back a bit and prepare for the tournaments that are important to me,” he said.

Then he goes on to play the Memorial on the PGA Tour.

And the Schwartzel victory will not put any additional pressure on him. “The pressure we feel is the pressure we put on ourselves,” he said.

“And I feel I should be getting a win soon.”

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