With less than R8,000 separating them as they play the final two tournaments of the 2015 Sunshine Tour season, rookies Zander Lombard and Rourke van der Spuy will be keeping close tabs on each other in this week’s Lion of Africa Cape Town Open – even if they say they won’t.
The pair finished on exactly the same score at the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School in January, and, although Lombard opened up a substantial lead in the race for the Bobby Locke Trophy which goes to the Rookie of the year, thanks largely to his top-10 finish in the Mopani/Redpath Zambia Open in April, Van der Spuy hit back by becoming the first rookie to win on the Sunshine Tour this year with his victory in last month’s Sun Fish River Sun Challenge.
“I can’t control what Rourke’s doing, so I’ll just play my game and add up the scores at the end,” said Lombard diplomatically.
Van der Spuy had pretty much the same attitude. “You just have to go through the processes,” he said. “We’ve got a couple of big events to finish off the season, so literally anything can happen amongst the guys behind us, so you can’t focus on it too much – just go out there and try and do the best you can each week.”
But the reality is that Breyten Meyer, the next best rookie in the race, is over R120,000 behind the leading duo, so it would take both Lombard and Van der Spuy missing the cut this week with Meyer winning the Cape Town Open or finishing second to turn the race into a three-horse affair.
And the tournament this week at Royal Cape Golf Club assumes added significance when the fact that Lombard is not directly into next week’s season-ending Alfred Dunhill Championship, while Van der Spuy, by virtue of his victory, is. “I have asked for an invitation for Leopard Creek next week,” said Lombard, “otherwise I’ll have to play in the qualifier to get one of the 10 spots available there.”
Van der Spuy is acutely conscious of the leg-up his victory has given him in the race. “If you look back two or three months, I wasn’t even in the race, to be honest,” he said. “That just proves anything can happen with a big finish.”
The big finish is something Lombard has been working towards: Three of his four top-10s this season have come since the beginning of September. “I think Royal Cape is not very receptive to aggressive play,” he said. “I’ve always been too conservative, so over the last few months I’ve tried to be more aggressive. So I’ve been pushed back into my comfort zone here. It’s a short, tight course, so you have to position the ball.
“My game’s starting to find some rhythm and consistency, and I’m placing the ball in the right areas, so I’m looking forward to this week,” Lombard added. “I’ve had a solid year, a consistent year. A win would make it a great year.”