Schietekat hopes to take SA form into Open

He lists his favourite tournament as the Masters at Augusta National, but Neil Schietekat is going to get to play his first major in next week’s Open Championship at Royal St George’s.

The lanky Modderfontein Golf Club professional was one of three players to punch his ticket to Sandwich as Floris de Vries of the Netherlands won the International Final Qualifying event at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington back in January.

Schietekat and the equally lanky Martin Maritz shared second behind De Vries’ 10-under-par on six-under.

The 27-year-old finds himself going into action on a course which, when it last hosted the Open Championship in 2003, delivered the unlikeliest champion in Ben Curtis.

He was playing in the event for the first time, and the world number 396 held off the world’s best golfers over the dramatic closing stretch. Amongst the players behind him? Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo

Retief Goosen and Hennie Otto were the best South African performers that year, finishing in a share of 10th, five shots off the lead.

Schietekat is currently ranked 451 in the world, and he’s the 26th-best South African player on the current Official World Golf Rankings.

He’s been having a good year, as he lies ninth on the 2011 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit – well clear of 10th-placed Jaco van Zyl and within reach of Otto in eighth.

He’s earned R628,000 so far this year, nearly double his earning from his best year on the Sunshine Tour in 2008. And his spot in the top 10 is 20 positions higher than his 2007 finish on the Order of Merit.

He pulled off the biggest pay cheque of his career in the 2011 Telkom PGA Championship, where he finished second to George Coetzee in a week of superlative scoring. He dropped just three shots throughout the four rounds, carding 68-65-64-66 for a 25-under-par total of 263.

It was certainly a week during which he could have won, and although he hasn’t pulled off that maiden professional victory yet, he’s been having the kind of year that could see it happen at any time.

It might not be at the Open Championship, but there’s no reason why his game shouldn’t flourish in the difficult circumstances that Royal St George’s will pose.

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