WGC reward for Bekker’s Di-Data win

After a quiet start to his year, Oliver Bekker found form at exactly the right time when he won the Dimension Data Pro-Am in February to gain a spot in this week’s World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.

The two-time Sunshine Tour winner is one of six South Africans in the third WGC event which will be played on the Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, joining Open champion Ernie Els, Branden Grace, Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen and Retief Goosen.

Going into the Dimension Data Pro-Am, he had missed the cut in the Africa Open and retired from the Joburg Open, so the 2011 Northern Cape Classic champion was short on confidence.

That all changed with his opening round on Fancourt’s Montagu course as he carded a fine seven-under-par 65, set up as he eagled the ninth, and then made five more birdies coming in for a bogey-free round.

He kept it tidy for the rest of the tournament, with a two-under 70 on Outeniqua, a fine two-under 71 on The Links, and then closed it out with a two-under 70 back on Montagu to hold off Thomas Aiken and Tyrone Ferreira by two strokes.

Entry into the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational is one of the perks added to his R475,500 in winnings from that tournament – a cheque which has kept him inside the top 10 on the Sunshine order of Merit – and he will be keen to convert the opportunity into something bigger for a future on the US PGA Tour.

He followed up his victory at Fancourt with three more top-10 finishes – fifth in the Investec Royal Swazi Open, a share of eighth in the Vodacom Origins of Golf at Zebula, and a share of fifth in the Indo Zambia Bank Zambia Open.

He is one of 27 young players under the age of 30 in the field – Grace, Schwartzel and Oosthuizen are others – and he will be able to compare himself to the likes of Rickie Fowler and Danny Willett, young players who also recently have broken through with maiden professional victories on the PGA Tour and European Tour respectively.

And, besides Els who will be buoyed after his Open Championship triumph, he will also face Adam Scott, the defending champion and the man whom Els beat as the Australian imploded down the stretch at Royal Lytham a fortnight ago.

Scott is one of just four men who have won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Tiger Woods has won it an extraordinary seven times since its inception in 1999, and has three PGA Tour titles this year to his credit. The other champions in the field are Hunter Mahan who won in 2010, and Darren Clarke who took the 2003 title.

For Bekker, the experience will be reward enough, but he will want to cement the reputation he has earned on the Sunshine Tour with his two victories.

© 2016 Sunshine Tour. All rights reserved. Website constructed by OCS Sport