Nine birdies and a bogey for an eight-under-par 64 in the final round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship on Sunday was exactly what Jaco van Zyl hoped for ahead of his Nedbank Golf Challenge debut this week.
The 13-time Sunshine Tour champion battled an erratic swing in rounds of 71, 72 and 74 over the first three rounds at Leopard Creek, but some hours on the range produced the pace and rhythm that saw Van Zyl close out the 2015 Race to Dubai ranked 24th.
“I gave myself a lot of scoring opportunities on Sunday and it paid off in many ways,” said Van Zyl of his tie for eighth on seven-under 281.
“That round gave me a great start in the 2016 Race to Dubai, a tidy boost in the Chase to the Investec Cup and put me in a very positive mind-set for Sun City.”
Van Zyl has played enough rounds at the Gary Player-designed championship course to know that a B-game won’t cut it in the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
“Like all South African golfers, I grew up on the Nedbank Golf Challenge,” he said.
“For years I dreamed about playing in it one day but from the minute I got the nod, I stressed about my game. Over the first three days at Leopard Creek, I was hitting it out of bounds and into the water and if I got the ball to the green, I was facing 40-foot putts.
“The frustration just kept mounting, but I got some real confidence when the swing started to click on Sunday. It’s not where I want it, yet, but it’s definitely heading in the right direction.
“I struck the ball a lot better and I hit quality shots and putted well. That’s the kind of form you need to score at Leopard Creek and that you will definitely need it at the Gary Player Country Club.”
Years of watching ‘Africa’s Major’ has given Van Zyl insight into the demands at this world-class championship.
“I’ve watched every Nedbank Golf Challenge, so I know we can expect severe rough, slick and fast greens and tight fairways,” he said. “When the wind comes up, it swirls, so accuracy is absolutely crucial to score. You just cannot afford to arrive with a poor swing and cold putter.
“Playing in the last Nedbank Golf Challenge before the tournament joins the European Tour’s Final Series is going to make this year even more special for me.
“If you think about it, this is the end of an era. It’s the last of the traditional ‘Million Dollars’. After Sunday’s performance, I am even more stoked that I made list for this year’s championship.”