He’s just two weeks out from his maiden Sunshine Tour victory and Danie van Tonder couldn’t be happier about being at the Royal Swazi Sun Country Club for this tomorrow’s Lombard Insurance Classic.
He bested the 6,140-metre layout in the Ezulweni Valley in the final round, making a birdie per hole for the final three holes to barge his way into a three-way play-off with Jacques Blaauw and Jared Harvey, and he went on to seal the deal at the first time of asking with a birdie on the difficult 175-metre 18th to take the Investec Royal Swazi Open.
“The course has always been nice to me,” he said after a practice round. “I’m playing well and I’m looking forward to the tournament.”
So well is he playing, that Van Tonder made a bogey on his 17th hole in the second round in the last tournament in Swaziland, and that was his last for the weekend as he made 16 birdies thereafter in closing rounds of 65 and 63.
“It’s a short course. It’s a bit narrow, but it’s all about hitting fairways and greens. The more fairways you hit, the more fairways you can attack,” said Van Tonder.
And while he wasn’t able to back up his maiden title with a victory last week in the Mopani Copper Mines Zambia Open, he did finish second in Kitwe, just one shot off the pace set by Wallie Coetsee.
Van Tonder has been on a rare old tear on the Sunshine Tour in 2014, and he finds himself in fourth position on the Order of Merit with R3.22-million in prize money, and within striking distance of the lead held by England’s Ross Fisher, who won the Tshwane Open and has won R3.58-million.
Van Tonder came second to Fisher in that tournament, and he has five more top-10s to his credit in the nine events he has played so far. That kind of form and consistency means he has already won more than more than double the prize money that he raked in during his first two years as a professional.
He will have stern opposition in Swaziland: Defending champion Merrick Bremner is looking to win his third Lombard Insurance Classic title after he first won it in 2008; Blaauw is overdue a 2014 victory after his three wins in 2013; and Harvey is seeking his maiden Sunshine Tour win after his second place behind Van Tonder.
But Van Tonder will be relentless and plans to attack from the word go. “The greens are not that big, so if you’re on, you’ve got a birdie chance,” he said. “I feel as if I can win any time I play at the moment. My whole game is quite good, and I’m confident out there.”