Jaco van Zyl missed his short birdie putt on 18 at Country Club Johannesburg on Sunday, but he already had his second Telkom PGA Championship in the bag before he tapped in for par.
It was a close-run affair, with Van Zyl’s 69 and tournament total of 20-under-par 268 heading off Dylan Frittelli by one stroke, and Chris Swanepoel, with whom he shared the third round lead a further shot back in third.
For long periods, it didn’t look as if Van Zyl would win, as Swanepoel appeared to have it all sewn up, with as much as a four-stroke lead with nine holes left to play, but Van Zyl’s doggedness combined with a nervy finish by Swanepoel gave him a one-stroke win.
“After Chris followed my birdie on 13 with his own, I asked him as we walked to the next tee how he expected me to catch him,” laughed Van Zyl afterwards.
“After nine holes, I thought it was pretty much done,” he said, “but my caddie kept me motivated and reminded me it boils down to the last nine holes on Sunday. Things swung a little bit when I chipped in on 12 and the nice putt on 13, and then Chris started making a couple of unfortunate bogeys.”
In fact, Swanepoel made four bogeys in the closing five holes to open the door for Van Zyl, who needed no second invitation as a birdie on 16 took him clear of eventual second-place finisher Frittelli, the Sunshine Tour rookie who putted sublimely throughout the final round to card a five-under-par 67, the second lowest round of the day.
Van Zyl was scratching his head as he made two consecutive bogeys on the fifth and sixth, after had made only two bogeys for the rest of the week.
“I’m not a big fan of the second shot on five and the tee shot on six,” he said. “On the first couple of days, I got through those quite nicely and today I slipped a little bit. I don’t think it had anything to do with the pressure of leading at that stage – it was just two shots I really don’t enjoy on this golf course.”
But once he got the bit between his teeth again, he presented a textbook example of why one should never give up in sport.
For his career – after a four-year hiatus since he won a big summer event on the Sunshine Tour, which, ironically enough was the Telkom PGA Championship in 2009 – the win also showed the value of persistence.
“I won often in the smaller events, so winning the Dimension Data Pro-Am and then backing it up with this one definitely helps with the confidence,” he said.
The fact that his world ranking will rise from his current 104th to inside the top 100 will also help, but won’t see him deviate from the seven-week break he will now take. “Playing in Europe won’t be forever,” he said. “I’ll probably only last for another six years, so I’m doing this for the family and my boys.”