Swaziland is the place for Ruan to resurface

As autumn approaches the Sunshine Tour heads to Swaziland for the Investec Royal Swazi Open, where Ruan de Smidt is one of 72 professionals seeking glory from Wednesday onwards.


At a mild length of 6,140 metres Royal Swazi Sun Country Club is a course that tests accuracy and short game. That suits De Smidt, who picked up the nickname ‘hands’ from the other players after they saw his incredible touch around the greens. His affinity for the course was unveiled at the 2013 Investec Royal Swazi Open when he finished second to James Kingston.


Unlike most Sunshine Tour events, the Investec Royal Swazi Open employs a modified stableford scoring system that promotes aggressive scoring. Points are awarded as follows: eight for an albatross, five for an eagle and two for a birdie. Zero points are awarded for a par. One point is deducted for a bogey and three for a double bogey or worse. The scoring system makes risk and reward a huge factor, which inspires the professionals to ‘go for it.’


De Smidt is just the man for a track where short game is crucial and confidence is necessary. Last year at Royal Swazi Sun he made an impressive 45 points during the week to collect the cheque for sole second. The Krugersdorp local closed with five birdies over the final seven holes to force a playoff, but failed to triumph in the sudden-death finale.


The 24-year-old had a dream rise into professional golf during his rookie season in 2012. That year he won the Sunshine Tour’s Qualifying School by four shots and claimed a maiden victory at the Suncoast Classic in October to cement his place on tour. 


His second year on the tour was about consolidation and during the 2013 season De Smidt made 17 cuts in 27 starts to finish 29th on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit.


By the start of 2014 he was settled in as a regular contender on tour, but his performance was not as fiery as in previous years. Top-25 finishes at the Africa Open, Tshwane Open and Telkom Business PGA Championship are his three best results from the first four months of the year.


The change of season brings with it an urgency to win, which combines perfectly with the scoring format of the Investec Royal Swazi Open. De Smidt will be hungry for a second career title and some aggressive golf will put him in line to succeed this week.


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