Justin Walters says playing Crans-sur-Sierre is ‘like playing in Joburg on the Sunshine Tour minus the snow’, so he will be looking forward to this week’s Omega European Masters at one of the most picturesque courses imaginable.
The Country Club Johannesburg professional has been campaigning on the European Tour this year, and last week earned his biggest cheque when he finished in a share of 26th in the ISPS Handa Wales Open. But he would have been frustrated with his final round in that event, as his closing score of four-over-par 75 saw him tumble out of the top five and miss out on the chance of climbing closer to the 110th spot in the 2013 Race to Dubai – the cut-off point he must reach if he is to retain his card for 2014.
It’s been a mixed year for Walters, who last won on the Sunshine Tour in 2011 when he took the Investec Royal Swazi Open. In a truncated season in South Africa, his best showing came in the Investec Cup, where he came third behind winner Jaco van Zyl.
On the European Tour, after starting with a share of 14th in the rain-abbreviated Nelson Mandela Championship and 20th in the Alfred Dunhill Championship, he has missed 11 cuts, and finished inside the top 30 six times. His best performances were shares of 16th in the Joburg Open and the Tshwane Open.
So if he plays that well at altitude, then he should have a good week in Switzerland.
He has won €139,225 on the European Tour for his current position of 124th in the Race to Dubai rankings. That’s €46,531 behind the player currently in 110th, Spain’s Alvaro Quiros, which is a sizeable chunk of change to have to make up.
On his Twitter account, Walters said it was ‘great to be playing golf at high altitude’, and he needs to make that advantage count this week if he wants to secure his playing privileges in Europe for 2014 via the direct route – as opposed to going back to Qualifying School in November.
He is one of nine South Africans – 10 if you count Brazil’s Adilson Da Silva, who lives in South Africa – playing in the tournament. The others are Thomas Aiken, Branden Grace, Jbe’ Kruger, Darren Fichardt, Richard Sterne, Jaco van Zyl, Hennie Otto and Keith Horne.