It’s difficult to downplay a year that has a second place and three victories in it, but Jaco van Zyl’s 2013 can take an upward turn when he plays in this week’s World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.
Van Zyl tees off on Thursday in the lucrative $8.75-million event at Firestone Country Club (South) in Akron, Ohio, by virtue of one of those victories – his impressive February triumph in the Dimension Data Pro-Am at Fancourt.
That win followed a second place at the Africa Open a week earlier behind the other form player on the Sunshine Tour, Darren Fichardt, and then he topped that with his second victory in the Telkom PGA Championship and a scintillating performance in wrapping up the inaugural Chase to the Investec Cup with his play-off victory over Hennie Otto in the final Investec Cup at the Lost City.
He took a lengthy break from golf after that win – and he needed it as he had played hard in his chase of Fichardt in that enthralling climax to the Chase to the Investec Cup – but his return to tournament play after that on the European Tour and in the US Open was less than auspicious.
His share of 45th in the BMW PGA Championship was an adequate return, but he missed the cut at the US Open and in the Irish Open and the Alstom Open de France. And 35th and 57th in the BMW International Open and the Scottish Open respectively left him in 100th position on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai. He has also slipped out of the top 100 on the Official World Golf Rankings.
A tilt at the WGC title on a course – admittedly difficult, but not on the scale of Merion for the US Open – which has delivered just two winners with scores of single-digits under par in its 14-year history may just be the tonic for Van Zyl as the year moves into its concluding phases.
Tiger Woods’ 21-under-par 11-stroke win in 2000 was the most dramatic victory, by last year, Keegan Bradley carded 13-under, while Adam Scott the year before finished on 17-under. Good weather and benign course set-up means that the tournament could become a target-shooting exercise – and Van Zyl is very good at that when his game clicks into gear.
He has good South African company with him: Also playing are Ernie Els, Branden Grace, Charl Schwartzel and Richard Sterne. He needs to grab the opportunity.