If anyone wants to take the Golden Pilsener Zimbabwe Open title from Chris Swanepoel, they’re going to have to realise he won’t give it up without a fight.
He defends his title in the Sunshine Tour’s R1.65-million event which tees off on Thursday at the Royal Harare Golf Club.
“I always like playing aggressively,” he said. “There are no half measures out here. You’ve got to give it your best shot – that’s what sport is about.”
Last year, Swanepoel made up a five-stroke deficit on Trevor Fisher Jnr and Ruan de Smidt with his final-round flourish of eight-under-par 64 to force a play-off with Fisher, which he won on the second extra hole.
Incredibly, Swanepoel’s final round included two double bogeys. The first came after he had made six birdies on the opening seven holes. The other was on the 15th, but with four birdies and an eagle on his homeward nine, he had a clubhouse target set for Fisher and De Smidt.
While he waited in the clubhouse, Fisher was struggling to finish things, and a missed four-footer for par at the 18th left him tied with Swanepoel. De Smidt’s closing 71 left him in third.
“I was actually playing for second,” recalled Swanepoel ahead of his title defence. “So I just kept on pushing, and the birdies kept on coming.”
While second was his goal in that round, that’s not the way Swanepoel approaches things normally. “If you don’t want to win a tournament, you’re wasting your time,” he said. “In fact, every tournament is important – not just this one because I’m defending champion.”
He had a poor start to 2013. He missed five consecutive cuts before pulling things together with a third place in the Telkom PGA Championship – a result built on a superb third-round 63. He got into the Investec Cup on the strength of that performance and finished in a share of 11th in that elite 30-man field.
“I’ve just taken some time off after that,” he said. “I practiced hard last week, and a little bit the week before. There’s a little rustiness ahead of the winter events, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens when we start.”
Fisher is not in the field this year, but Swanepoel will be up against, amongst others, Sunshine Tour Order of Merit leader Darren Fichardt who was in superlative form ahead of the Investec Cup.
That’s not going to change the way Swanepoel plays – he’ll give it his all.