It was fitting that Christiaan Basson, an Investec brand ambassador, won the 2012 Investec Royal Swazi Open. He’s back this year and wants to lift the trophy another time.
“It makes it extra special to be back at this event. Winning an Investec tournament last year with their badge on my shirt was nice, and it’s good being here to defend,” he said.
‘Smiley’ heads into the week at Royal Swazi Sun Country Club on the back of a 13th-place finish at the Zimbabwe Open and has been happy with his game of late.
“It was nice playing well in Zim and getting back into it. The course is looking very good and I’m fond of Swaziland. I’m quite relaxed and everything is going well, so I’m happy to be here,” he said.
The tournament is no stroke play event and works off a modified stableford scoring system, which promotes aggressive golf. Points are awarded for scoring, with eight points going to an albatross, five points to an eagle and three points to a birdie. Points are deducted for dropped shots, with a bogey costing one point and a double bogey costing three points.
Basson clocked up a 50 point total for his 72 holes at the Swazi Open last year, finishing one point ahead of Des Terblanche and Danie van Tonder.
The 17th at Royal Swazi Sun is one of the best par fives on the Sunshine Tour circuit, with water surrounding the front of the green and bunkers protecting the back. The 18th is a sneaky par three with a steep slope on the right side when faced from the tee. Those two closing holes and the five-point value of an eagle keep the suspense going until the final putt.
“Those are two great closing holes,” said Basson. “The 17th has a back tee that means you really need to be careful, because anything can happen there. And the 18th is a strong par three. If you’re off the line it’s going to cost you!”
With the Sunshine Tour professionals inspired to attack flags, the tournament is inevitably a crowd pleaser, and this year a hole in one prize has been added to the list of prizes. The first professional to make a hole in one on the 18th hole during the third and fourth rounds will receive an Infinity FX 3.0 litre vehicle, which is valued at R770,000.
While Basson practiced for his title defence, Darryn Lloyd led the pre-qualifier, which offers up the final 10 places in the tournament.
Last week Lloyd shot a final-round 64 at the Sunshine Big Easy Tour’s Observatory event, and was unfortunate to lose in a playoff with Micky Hough.
He produced similar magic on Tuesday when he reached a 21-point total after carding three eagles during the qualifier. He was followed by Derik Ferreira, who made 18 points to take second place. Also making it through were Brandon Detweiler, Jeff Inglis, Johan de Beer and Kevin Stone. Desne van den Bergh, John Bele, Martin du Toit and Shaun Smith took the final four spots after each making 11 points.