He’s only had one top-10 finish on the Sunshine Tour this year, and not even pocketing the prize for winning the long drive competition at the Invested Royal Swazi Open would have made Oliver Bekker feel better about his season.
But an opening five-under-par 67 in the R800,000 BMG Classic being played at Glendower Golf Club certainly did as he was able to set out on his second round just one shot off the pace set by Merrick Bremner.
“I’ve been going through a bit of a swing change, so I haven’t really played well,” said Bekker. “So it was nice to get a good round out there.”
And, as all the players suggested after their opening rounds, Bekker said putting was the key to constructing a good score on a course many of the players rate as one of their favourites.
“I putted nicely for the first time in what feels like years, and it was good to play a nice solid round of golf,” he said. “The greens are very good. They’re very quick – probably the quickest we play pretty much all year – and they got quite firm towards the end of the round, so it was nice to make a couple of putts.”
An indication of how the greens can derail a perfectly well-played hole came for Bekker on the 18th, where a fine approach to the heart of the green left him with an 18-footer for birdie. As he hit it, he stood up and walked after it, realising it was not going to be good.
“I didn’t think I hit such a bad putt on the last hole, and it just kept on going. I thought it was going to be a foot from the hole and I ended up with a four-footer left for par,” he said.
It was towards the end of the day during which some stiff breezes and the sun had hardened the greens to such an extent that they had become even faster than they were at the start of the round.
“The greens look almost blue after a day in the sun and wind, and they’re pretty tricky from four or five feet in,” said Bekker. “I made a couple of putts longer than that. I didn’t leave myself too much from longer range. My speed was pretty good – I had two putts where I actually had to mark my ball after a first putt, and the others were all tap-ins.”
Backing up that good opening is going to be uppermost in his mind for the rest of the weekend as he seeks his first victory since last January – and his fourth on the Sunshine Tour.