Ruan races ahead at Sun City

Ruan de Smidt pulled away from the pack with a second-round 64 on Wednesday at the Nedbank Affinity Cup, where he set out a two-shot lead ahead of the final round.


The 25-year-old became an immediate contender on the circuit after he won the 2012 Sunshine Tour Qualifying School. In his rookie year he won the Suncoast Classic and finished 30th on the Order of Merit, which proved his ability to stand up to the big guns. There was no doubt that De Smidt had the talent to go far.


Fast forward to 2014 and De Smidt has matured into a player who rises into contention often. His latest result was a tie for fourth place at the Vodacom Origins of Golf Final last week.


The Krugersdorp local has made significant progress on tour and that is an indicator of how he is maturing. He recently got engaged and that has given him a grounded approach to competition.


This week his brother Darin is on the bag and that’s helping De Smidt’s self-confidence, which appears to be the last rung he needs to climb before rising to stardom.


“It was a good day out there and I’m definitely pleased,” he said. “My brother Darin is on the bag this week and I’ve saved a few shots because of him. He’s helped me a lot with confidence, which is working out so far.”


The other players have nicknamed him ‘hands’ because he has the softest touch around the greens, and on Wednesday his short game was on point.


“My chipping is good and when I miss greens I can often get it close and save pars. That really helps to keep going and today I certainly made some good up-and-downs,” he said.


A well-rounded game and an extra lashing of self-belief allowed De Smidt to shoot the lights out at Lost City Golf Course, where he made eight birdies to reach the 36-hole mark on 12-under-par.


The Affinity Cup is the final 54-hole event of the 2014 season. After this week it’s all big summer events and De Smidt is peaking at the right time.


“I’ve gone two days without a bogey, which is pretty good. I missed a couple of shots, but I putted unbelievably well and my chipping was good. In the final round I’ll try to repeat what I’ve done over the last two days,” he said.


Sunshine Tour veteran Ulrich van den Berg will apply pressure during the final round. In nine of his last 11 starts the 39-year-old has finished inside the top six. He’s two shots behind the lead and heads up the chase looking for an elusive 2014 win.


“I had a good back nine of 31 today and hit them really close. Ruan’s obviously happy with his game, so we’ll see how it goes, but there is still plenty of golf to come. You can have a bit of a run at most shots here and that is probably the reason we’re seeing such low scores this week,” he said.


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