While there are the same new logos on his cap, his golf bag and clubs and his clothing as Rory McIlroy had a year ago, Jared Harvey is not suffering from the same sort of problems as the former world number one.
The 24-year-old from Durban carded a six-under-par 66 to take an early share of the first round lead of the €1.5-million tournament at The Els Club Copperleaf co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and the European Tour, and didn’t drop a shot on the way to making six birdies.
“Everyone seems to dwell a little bit on the Nike thing with Rory,” said Harvey. “I’m very happy with my Nike stuff and I’m very glad to have the opportunity to use it. Very happy.
“I’m very happy with the ball. I think the Nike ball has been a nice transition and I find that I get a couple of extra metres off the tee. I’m a high spin player, so with that little bit less spin I feel it’s taken some of the pressure off when I play wedge shots,” he added.
And if his game is improving, golf fans better sit up and take note, because, before the equipment change, things were getting steadily better for the man on his third year on the Sunshine Tour: He finished inside the top 10 twice in his rookie year in 2012, and four times the following year.
He came close to victory in the 2013 Sun City Challenge, closing with a five-under-par 67 on the Lost City Course to fall just one shot short of forcing a play-off with eventual winner Adilson Da Silva.
If that rate of improvement continues, it should be no surprise to see him lift a trophy this season. “It’s all about finding your feet. My goal for every year is to improve. In my first year I had a decent season and then last year I gave myself a chance to win twice. It’s been baby steps, but in the right direction and I think this could be a good jump for me,” he said.
Harvey’s good opening round in the Tshwane Open came on a course that is the longest in European Tour history: At 7,281 metres (7,964 yards), its four par-fives all play over 600 yards, anf the fourth is the longest ever played on the European Tour at 626 metres (685 yards).
Of that pesky fourth, he said, “I must have hit a 300-odd drive and I couldn’t have ever thought about getting up in two. I hit driver, three-wood and I was 60 or 70 metres short. I know there are some guys that hit it longer than me, but I can’t see anyone getting it up there. It’s tough and long!”
Not that it bothered him too much. “It seemed like the front nine played to its full length,” he said. “On the back nine they moved the tee up on 10 and on the two par threes, so I found the back nine just a little easier. Maybe easier is not the word to use on this course, but lengthwise I managed to take advantage.
“I guess the length suits me. It definitely suits the longer hitter, especially with a bit of rain and soft fairways. You need to hit it a reasonable length off the tee to have a decent iron shot to the green, where you can stop it and get things going. I’m not complaining that there is a bit of length that works to my advantage.”
This kind of advantage would be handy for career advancement in 2014. He finished 78th in the 2012 Order of Merit, 42nd last year and currently lies handily placed at 29th. A good finish in the Tshwane Open would give him a huge boost.