Christiaan Bezuidenhout cruised to a three-stroke victory on Friday in the Big Easy Tour’s R200,000 King’s Cup in Swaziland as he fired a second successive five-under-par 67.
And he wrapped things up with a superbly taken eagle on the par-five 17th, hitting an eight-iron from 172 metres out over the water to four feet and boxing the putt.
“I thought I had a one-shot lead at that stage, so it was either lay up and go for a five, or go for it,” he said. “So I decided to go for it and it worked out my way. It was a relief seeing my ball pitch on the green over that water.”
That took him to a four-stroke margin over his nearest pursuers, and he had the luxury of being unperturbed by his bogey-four on the 18th, eventually leaving him three clear of Riekus Nortje and Gideon Pienaar who shared second, with Brian Gondo of Zimbabwe and Dylan O’Leary four shots further back in a share of fourth.
For Bezuidenhout, it was a vindication after the horror of being the inadvertent victim of a positive drugs test while he was South Africa’s number one amateur and playing in The Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush.
While it was agreed that he had been innocent of malice in the incident, he had to sit out of golf for nine months, and he only started playing again in the middle of March.
You wouldn’t have thought so as the graduate of the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation cruised around the fairways of the Royal Swazi Spa Golf Club with the assurance of a veteran, just waiting for his chances and then converting them.
“I just did the same things as yesterday,” he said. “The first couple of holes were tough in the rain but I just hung in there.”
He made birdies on seven and 10 to keep up with Pienaar and Nortje, but he must have thought his chances for victory had drained away when he three-putted the easy 12th for a par after putting his approach on the par-five to 10 feet. “I just said to myself, stay calm, there’s at least three more birdies out there,” he said.
Turns out there were two birdies and an eagle as he skipped clear of the field and to his maiden tour victory. That second shot on 17 was typical of the iron play which set him up. “There were some tight flags today, so iron play was an important part of my game,” he said. “I’m not very long off the tee, but I can get it out to 290 metres. The course is short, so you can get a lot of pitch shots in – especially if you’re accurate.”
There was a real sense of purpose about his play, and he seems destined to succeed on a bigger stage too. “I’m going to play the next Big Easy Tour event and the Tour Championship the week after that,” he said.
“After that, I hope I can get some invitations to play on the Sunshine Tour – I really want to get my card for that.”