Jaco looking to be tougher than the West in Joburg Open

Jaco van Zyl is sure the West Course holds the key to winning this week’s Joburg Open at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington East and West courses.

He wants to get a good round on the West Course in the round that will be played on it – the first two rounds are divided between the East and West courses, before the cut is made and the final two rounds are played on the East Course.

“A key for this week is to get a good solid round in on the West,” he said. “The East is a little tougher than the West, so if you can get a good score round the West, that definitely sets you up for a nice week.”

He won his European Tour card after a 13th-place finish in the WGC-HSBC Champions event in China, and he has a great chance to claim his maiden European Tour victory this week.

He plays in the €1.3-million Joburg Open this week, the final event of the four Sunshine Tour tournaments which are co-sanctioned by the European Tour and have set the 2011 Race to Dubai underway.

And his fourth-place finish in last week’s Africa Open – a result achieved without any discernible success with his putter – has placed him in 13th spot early on in the Race to Dubai.

He will be hoping that the rain-sodden Royal Johannesburg and Kensington East and West courses will be the scene of a return of his putting form – or at least enough of it so that he can set about emulating the kind of play which brought him four Sunshine Tour titles last year.

“I really battled with the consistency of the greens last week,” said Van Zyl. “I found that one was a little bit quicker than the next one, so adjusting wasn’t easy.”

Ahead of him in the early running for the Race to Dubai, however, are players of the calibre of defending champion Charl Schwartzel, who shared fourth with Van Zyl in East London last week, as well as the man who was one of the runners-up to Open champion Louis Oosthuizen after a playoff, Spaniard Manuel Quiros.

Even without his putting, Van Zyl’s performance in the Africa Open gave him a nice little boost in the Official Golf World Rankings – from 335th to 266th – and he knows that another good showing will give him another leg up on the list.

A win, of course, would be even better: The winner’s share of the purse is €206,050, which is enough to lift him clear of Oosthuizen who heads the list at this point. And, even allowing for the vagaries of exchange-rate fluctuations, it would vault him to the top of the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit.

“You want to get off to a nice start,” he said, “and there’s no better place to do it than at home. I’ve played this event all four times it’s been played, and I know the two courses really well.”

One of the things he will have to do in the Joburg Open to improve on his share of 12th last year is finish faster: He closed with a level-par 72, while Schwartzel carded a six-under-par 66, and runner-up Keith Horne signed for a superb eight-under 64.

In fact, only Alex Haindl inside the top 20 shot worse than Van Zyl in the final round last year with a one-over 73.

“You’ve got to finish well,” said Van Zyl, “but if you get an ordinary round in on the West Course, then the rest of the week is just much more difficult.”

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