There’s one more tournament day left in Jaco van Zyl’s 2015, and if he can dredge up the energy, he can make it a huge one in the final round of the $6.5-million Nedbank Golf Challenge at Gary Player Country Club.
After leading the tournament in which he has dreamed of playing since boyhood through halfway, he endured a rough day at the office in the third round, making four bogeys which he only managed to finally negate with his fourth birdie of the day courtesy of a 35-footer on the 18th.
“Look, women trekked over the Drakensburg barefoot, so I don’t think a 72 is a train smash,” he laughed afterwards. “I just have to turn things around. It’s a combination of will, determination and what the golfing gods throw at you on the day.”
And while it was good that he could keep things in perspective after he finished 54 holes four shots off the lead held by Marc Leishman, and a shot back of Henrik Stenson who was in second, the truth is that this tournament can deliver enormous benefits to Van Zyl.
With the number of Official World Golf Ranking points up for grabs, if Van Zyl wins or finishes second or in a share of second, he could be catapulted into the world’s top 50 – and that would get him an automatic invitation into the Masters, which the other tournament he has always dreamed of playing.
So it’s a question on knuckling down, putting aside his fatigue and getting the job done on a course on which he has his best round – an eight-under-par 63 – as a professional.
“I don’t feel like I’m out of it by any means,” he said. “But to win an event, you kind of need a couple of lucky breaks and things need to turn around for me.
“I’m just fighting the swing a little bit. It’s just not quite on song. And it’s 36 degrees out there, it’s week six in a row for me, so all of those things do start adding up at the end of the year and the last thing you want to do is be out there fighting your swing and fighting the golf course.”
Leishman and Stenson are not going to roll over and play dead for him. But Van Zyl certainly won’t go out without a fight.