Van Zyl played his way to the US Open through a sectional qualifier at Walton Heath in England, where he shared the runner-up spot. At third on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, it was not a flash in the pan that earned him a place at Merion Golf Club, but instead it was the product of years of grinding.
At 6397 metres from the tips, Merion is the shortest course in eight years to host a major. The lush Philadelphia course finds its defence in unforgiving rough and demands accuracy off the tee.
Defending US Open champion Webb Simpson said of Merion: “What it demands out of the players is so different than most golf courses, and it seems like most golf courses now are evolving to be bombers paradise. Every par four is 500 yards, and you hit a driver on every hole. Merion's the opposite.'”
That’s good news for van Zyl, who lists fourth for driving accuracy on the Sunshine Tour.
Most important for the Dainfern professional is the high rainfall that has (and will) fall at Merion this week. The notoriously quick pace of any green at a US Open means that ball placement is crucial. While van Zyl’s iron play is superb on its own, he’ll find extra confidence in the extra stop he’ll be able to produce on the soft greens this week.
Then comes the flat stick and van Zyl, who ranks third in putting on the Sunshine Tour, will surely fin the bottom of the cup with a few beauts.
The summary is that van Zyl could not have chosen a better major to start with. The course suit his game, the weather has played its part, and the stars seem to have aligned for the dark horse from South Africa.