Tjaart van der Walt missed out on regaining his European Tour card last week, but he’s found something in his swing that makes him confident ahead of the South African Open Championship which gets underway tomorrow at Glendower Golf Club.
Van der Walt won his maiden professional title in the Lion of Africa Cape Town Open earlier this month. It came after 17 years as a professional which included 13 runner-up finishes – and it came on the back of a superlative iron game and some rock-solid putting.
“I flew over Alan Thompson to get a couple of kinks out of my swing,” he said, “because, as you remember, I didn’t drive too well in Cape Town. But my iron play was very good – and that’s what you’ve got to do on this course, not just drive it well. And you’ve also got to make the putts.”
It was his putting in Cape Town which was the eye-opener during his third-round 65 which catapulted him into a lead which was eventually insurmountable.
“We all know that most of us hit it similarly from tee to green, so making those putts when you have to is key,” he said.
That similarity between the skills of the players is what makes predicting winners in golf tournaments difficult. “You’ve got to look at the top money leaders on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, and most of them are here,” he said. “Every one of those in the top 20 or 30 is hungry and wants to get further up that money list. To single out one or two guys is tricky.”
But the victory in Cape Town has made him confident in his own abilities: “Winning convincingly has switched some lights on,” he said. “You’ve always got to back yourself, otherwise we wouldn’t be here. Big names, no names, you’ve still got to get the ball into the hole and that ball doesn’t know who’s hitting it. We’ve got to give it a shot. I back myself every week.”
Now it’s a case of turning 2013 from a good year into a great year for Van der Walt. “I had a lot of ups, a few downs, so I find that the momentum is going in the right direction. It’s not over yet in my eyes, and I look forward to building on the momentum I gathered from the Cape Town Open.”