Last time Mark Williams played the Arabella Country Estate course, he made four double-bogeys and a triple in two rounds. Things started a little differently for him yesterday in this week’s Vodacom Origins of Golf event there.
He fired an opening-round one-under-par 71, and that was in stark contrast to the 2014 effort of rounds of 76 and 78, leaving him at 10-over-par and way off Jean Hugo’s winning score of seven-under in a tournament shortened to 36 holes because of high winds.
“I think I just had a different outlook on how to play the course,” he said. “Having played here for a couple of years now, I know that it always plays tough. So I played a lot more conservatively yesterday. I made a lot of pars, and when I did drop a shot, I managed to drop just one, which I think is the key around here. If you can keep the doubles and big numbers off the card, I think you’ve got a fairly good chance to score.
“The scrambling out here is really important, and knowing where to miss it – just limiting the damage. It’s not the type of course you’re going to play one, two or three rounds without making a bogey,” he added.
His improved play over the course also has much to do with his own climb in overall form. In 2014, he finished in 65th spot on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit. He improved that his best-ever of 45th in 2015, and is currently in 19th after 13 events, having already banked R680,000 in prize-money – that’s more than double last year’s haul.
“I just think playing more frequently in these conditions on the coastal courses has made a difference,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of success at other coastal courses. I love playing in the wind. I’ve feel I’ve been playing well lately, and I think patience is the big thing. You know you don’t have to go out the blocks and make a lot of birdies on courses like this. You have to set your expectations realistically.”
He’s also reined in his own immense length with his driver to deal with what confronts him. “I hit only three or four drivers yesterday,” he said. “It does leave me longer shots into the greens. There are holes here where it’s good to have the length and use it, but you have to play that card wisely, because if you don’t pay attention, it’s going to be tough to keep it in play.”
He’s looking forward to more of the same in the second round. “I’m hoping the weather holds,” he said. “This course is never been too kind to us with the weather, but I’m hoping to get out there and enjoy the day.”