When Shaun Norris won the Leoplace21 Myanmar Open on the Asian Tour last week, it gave his confidence the kind of boost that will make him a dangerous contender in this week’s Tshwane Open which tees off on Thursday.
It was a second Asian Tour victory for the 33-year-old who plays out of Silver Lakes in Pretoria – his first came in October last year in the Yeangder Tournament Players Championship – and it was a stunning 11-under-par 61 in the third round which set the Myanmar victory up.
“That was as good as anything I’ve done in golf,” he said. “Some of the guys even made jokes about me playing back at home at Silver Lakes. It felt like it. It felt like everything was just going the right way, I knew exactly where I was hitting it and the biggest bonus of all, the putts were falling.”
And after he had missed the cut in the first two tournaments of the 2016 Sunshine Tour season, as well as in the Singapore Open the week before the Myanmar win, he might have had cause for concern.
“I’ve been putting the scores up in the first rounds and unfortunately not completing the second rounds to make the cut, but the game has been there,” he said. “I think I was just putting too much pressure on myself to try and do too well and things like that.
“I actually said to my caddie at Myanmar that the games is there, I’m hitting it well, I’m putting well, let’s just forget about everything and just have fun and let’s literally make a joke out of it. We were smiling, joking away and talking the biggest amount of rubbish on the course but it seemed to have worked.”
In addition to giving Norris the biggest single cheque of his career (just short of R2.2-million at the current exchange rate), it has made him a likely contender in the Tshwane Open. “It shows me that my game is there and that I’m capable of winning tournaments,” he said. “So it definitely gives me confidence and I’m looking forward to the week, the course looks fantastic. I’m just going to try and do the same thing with the same mentality, try and have fun and enjoy myself here.”
If he gets into the kind of mood which saw him shoot 61, the likes of defending champion George Coetzee and 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel will have to watch their backs – it was just last year that Jacques Blaauw almost stole the tournament from under Coetzee’s nose with a final-round 61 of his own.