As Jaco van Zyl prepares to defend his title on Thursday at the Telkom Business PGA Championship at Country Club Johannesburg, he’s simply relishing playing his last competitive golf for a long time.
The two-time champion in one of South Africa’s most prestigious tournaments will be having knee surgery next Tuesday, and is likely to miss the rest of the year as he recovers from that.
“I haven’t started to think about life after surgery yet,” said Van Zyl. “They said I have six weeks or two months in a wheel chair. I’ll try to get through that first and then get a bit more mobile. After that I can start with physiotherapy and hopefully it will improve.”
In the meantime, he has a tournament to play, and he plays it both to cherish the feeling of playing the game he loves and at which he excels, and he plays it to see if he can become the first man since Louis Oosthuizen in 2007 and 2008 to win the title back-to-back.
“It would be great to be able to do that,” said Van Zyl. “But it’s another week, so you try to take it shot for shot and not get ahead of yourself, but it would be nice to get number three under the belt.”
He has had three top-10 finishes on this year’s Sunshine Tour, with a best of third in the Investec Cup two weeks ago. That was the tournament at which things appeared to be coming together for Van Zyl. After weeks of striking the ball well, his putter began behaving again.
“I started putting nicely in Morocco and fortunately it carried over to two weeks ago in the Investec Cup,” he said. “It still feels like I’m putting it very nicely and I’m starting it where I want to every time, so hopefully I’ll make a few putts this week.”
Even if his game is in good shape, he will have plenty of players pushing him as he attempts to win number three. One of those players is Trevor Fisher Jnr, who won the Investec Cup and finished on top of the Chase to the Investec Cup to pull off a R3.5-million bonus. He should still feel bulletproof after that.
“I think he will be up there again,” said Van Zyl. “This course suits him pretty well and he’s been playing nicely, so he’s always one of the contenders. It’s the normal South Africans out here and all of them can play really well.”
And the man who finished runner-up to Fisher in the Investec Cup is one of those who is playing really Well – Jacques Blaauw. “I watched him a bit last week and he is looking really good,” said Van Zyl. “He’s hitting some form and made a couple of nice putts. He’s been out here for a long time and I think he’s ready for his first big win.”
But Van Zyl won’t relinquish his crown without a good fight.