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Bez eyes up Masters spot as he takes on Mexico

Bez eyes up Masters spot as he takes on Mexico

The latest Official World Golf Ranking list issued today says it’s so. Christiaan Bezuidenhout is the second-best golfer from South Africa after his victory in the Dimension Data Pro-Am last week. Bezuidenhout climbed to 48th from 60th on the list, leap-frogging Erik van Rooyen and Shaun Norris in the process as he eagled the last hole in a thrilling climax to a tournament that saw him duelling with George Coetzee for the entire final round. He is now the closest South African to Louis Oosthuizen, who slipped a single spot to 17th this week. Bezuidenhout is now set fair for a tilt at a spot in the Masters in April if he can keep himself inside the top 50 in the world until the week before the first major championship of the year gets underway at Augusta National on April 9. He heads off to Mexico this week for the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship, together with fellow-South Africans Branden Grace, Justin Harding, Zander Lombard, Norris, Louis Oosthuizen and Van Rooyen. The seven South Africans make up fractionally short of 10 percent of the 72-man field in a no-cut event that will be stacked with world ranking points. With Van Rooyen, Harding, Oosthuizen and Trevor Immelman already in the field for this year’s Masters, Grace and Norris in particular will be keen to pick up enough points to get them into the reckoning for a trip down Magnolia Lane. Van Rooyen is 52nd, Norris 61st and Grace 71st. With the likes of world number one Rory McIlroy leading all of the world’s top 10 – except Tiger Woods – into action this week, a solid finish could catapult those close enough to 50th on the rankings above the benchmark and set them up for one of the most coveted invitations in golf. Bezuidenhout, who started the year ranked 87th, exhibited the kind of form which made him a debut European Tour winner last year in June when he took the Andalucia Masters. He had been in good form in 2020 so far too, with a play-off defeat to Australia’s Lucas Herbert in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in January. The manner of his victory in the Dimension Data Pro-Am will give him the confidence he needs to take this opportunity to cement his place inside the world’s elite for the foreseeable future. Given that the Mexico tournament will be his first taste of play in the WGC series, he is certain to pick up world ranking points for even an average performance. The other South Africans in the field, however, will be looking for more than that. South Africa’s Top 10
  1. Louis Oosthuizen (17)
  2. Christiaan Bezuidenhout (48)
  3. Erik van Rooyen (52)
  4. Shaun Norris (61)
  5. Branden Grace (71)
  6. Justin Harding (91)
  7. Dylan Frittelli (118)
  8. JC Ritchie (120)
  9. Dean Burmester (160)
  10. George Coetzee (169)
   
Bezuidenhout goes wire-to-wire to claim Dimension Data Pro-Am title 1

Bezuidenhout goes wire-to-wire to claim Dimension Data Pro-Am title

Christiaan Bezuidenhout made an eagle on the last hole on Montagu to claim a one-stroke victory over George Coetzee in the Dimension Data Pro-Am on a tournament total of 25-under-par 264 on Sunday. Bezuidenhout was in scintillating form the whole week at Fancourt, having led the tournament from the first day through to the last. On the final day, however, he had some serious competition from the 2016 winner of the event, George Coetzee, who looked liked he’d sealed victory when he finished at 24-under par and was a shot clear of Bezuidenhout when the latter was playing the 17th. “I got off to a perfect start and made birdies on the first two holes,” he said, “but I hit a wayward tee shot on the third but it was tough out there. Today the wind was swirling a lot and on the first nine, it was blowing quite a bit. But I just stuck to it and it was great to finish off with an eagle.” Tough it was because for about 50 minutes the round was suspended due to a threat of a storm which was passing through the area. As can be imagined, the brief stop affected momentum for all players but Bezuidenhout showed some serious big-match temperament to keep going even when Coetzee was leading. “It affected the momentum a little bit, especially on the restart,” he admits, “and I hit a poor tee shot on the 12th, three-putted and kind of thought my chances were gone because George was playing great with no bogeys, hitting fairways and greens every time. I knew I needed something special and luckily, I did it.” He admits that he was watching the leaderboard on every hole so that he knew what the other playing were doing, especially Coetzee who was looking to becoming only the third player to win this title two times, with others being Nick Price and Darren Fichardt. “I was watching it a lot, ever hole,” he says, “that way I knew what I needed to do. So, I knew I had to make birdie on the last to take it to a playoff but luckily, I hit a great driver and then an eagle to win. It’s a special tournament, this, and I have always wanted to win it. So, to do it now is really awesome.” Bezuidenhout has now won on the Sunshine Tour, European Tour and the Challenge Tour as this event was one of three that were co-sanctioned with the Challenge Tour for the first time.
Bezuidenhout eyes Fancourt glory 1

Bezuidenhout eyes Fancourt glory

Christiaan Bezuidenhout says while he hasn’t taken time to look at the past champions of the Dimension Data Pro-Am to draw some inspiration from, his only aim to ensure his name is the next to be etched onto that trophy. He was speaking after his third-round of three-under 69 which took his overall tournament total to 20-under-par at Fancourt. “I haven’t really looked at the past winners here,” he admits, “but I’m sure there are a couple of good names on it and I would like to put my name in there too. I will go for it tomorrow and hopefully, I can pull it off.” Unlike the first two days when he opened his round with birdies from the onset, Bezuidenhout was a little slow off the mark on Montagu on Saturday, making three straight pars before making his first birdie. That joy was short-lived because immediately after making that birdie, a bogey followed. A par on the sixth was followed by another bogey which was followed by a birdie which ensured he was level-par at the turn. “I hit some great shots on the first few holes,” says the man who has been leading in this tournament from day one, “I just couldn’t convert the putts. I felt like I was playing well but the putts were not going in as they did in the first two rounds. Tee to green, I played well and it was tough with the swirling wind but, overall, it was a solid round.” That birdie on nine was the beginning of the turnaround for Bezuidenhout on moving day. From there on, he picked up two more to make it three birdies on the trot. He made further gains on the 15th hole, taking his total to 20-under and ensuring he takes a two-stroke victory into the final round which will be played on Montagu. Trailing him by two shots is compatriot, George Coetzee and Spain’s Santiago Tarrio Ben. Tarrio Ben carded a one-under 72 round on the Links while Coetzee was unrelenting in his pursuit for the top spot, signing for an impressive seven-under 65 on Montagu. He shrugged off a painful bogey on the opening hole and made three birdies on the front nine to turn in 33. Then, he made an important eagle on the 10th and followed that up with a birdie on the next hole. He dropped another shot on the 14th but swiftly recovered with back-to-back birdies on the 15th and 16th holes to seal the second spot ahead of what promises to be a spectacular final round if this 25th edition of the Dimension Data Pro-Am. “Today I made a lot more birdies,” he said, “but I also made a couple of dodgy swings which I will go and sort out now. Hopefully, my knowledge of this course helps me tomorrow. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow and I hope the course treats me well again because I’ll be sure to treat it very well.”
Superb Bezuidenhout holds on in Fancourt

Superb Bezuidenhout holds on in Fancourt

Christiaan Bezuidenhout backed up his sublime opening round of 61 at this year’s Dimension Data Pro-Am with an even more impressive score, a six-under-par 67 on The Links, to total 17-under after 36 holes and keep his spot at the top of the leaderboard on day two at Fancourt Golf Estate. He is joined by Spaniard, Santiago Tarrio Ben at the top after round two.  Bezuidenhout’s start on day two was similar to how he began the first round. He made two birdies in his first three holes to get started on the daunting Links layout before making further gains on the fifth. Bogeys on the seventh and ninth holes followed, threatening to derail his progress in the tournament. His recovery from those, however, was swift and assured, with back-to-back birdies on the 10th and 11th holes. An important par-save on the 12th was followed by a trio of birdies one after the other to get his round back on track and to tie the lead with Tarrio Ben who was already in the clubhouse. “If anyone said I’d shoot six-under-par the Links today, I would’ve taken it,” said Bezuidenhout after yet another solid performance. “I made 11 birdies yesterday and I knew it was always going to be difficult to follow that up with a good score, so I’m happy with how things went out there today. The Links is a tough test and you have to drive it well here, and then it comes down to the putting. The putting wasn’t as good as yesterday’s but, as I said, it was always going to be difficult to do it here.” Tarrio Ben was just as solid on Friday on the Outeniqua course, making seven birdies, an eagle and a bogey en route to a share of the lead with Bezuidenhout. Richard Sterne lies third after a spectacular seven-under 66 on The Links which took his total for the week to 13-under and leaves him four shots off the pace as we head into the weekend. Stephen Ferreira who played on Outeniqua as well, also gave a good account of himself on Friday, firing in a 68 which catapulted him to fourth on the leaderboard on 12-under-par. Tying fifth on a score of 11-under-par is the trio of Dean Burmester who shot a 68 on The Links, George Coetzee who shot a 69 on the same layout and New Zealand’s Daniel Hillier who carded a 68 on the Outeniqua track.
Red-hot Bezuidenhout blitzes to Fancourt lead

Red-hot Bezuidenhout blitzes to Fancourt lead

Christiaan Bezuidenhout got off to a flying start in this year’s edition of the Dimension Data Pro-Am, firing in a flawless 11-under-par 61 opening round on the Outeniqua golf course at Fancourt. He made back-to-back birdies on the first two holes, then a par and then another birdie. Two more birdies – one after the other – made it onto his card as he turned in 31 and blemish-free. He didn’t relent on the back nine, making two more birdies on the trot on the 10th and 11th holes. Those were followed by a par on the 12th before another birdie arrived. A hole later, Bezuidenhout was at it again, birdieing the 15th, 17th and 18th holes to sign for a bogey-free 61. “Outeniqua has proven to be a scorable course over the years,” said Bezuidenhout, “and it was important to get a great start and, luckily, I did it and I just kept going. There’s a little bit of pressure there because it’s almost expected that you should score well there. “If you walk off a scorable course with a two-under or level-par, you know you’ve got work to do on the tougher courses. It’s always at the back of your mind that you should do well on the easier course. Once you do that, you take a bit of the pressure off your shoulder going into the next three days.” Close up on Bezuidenhout’s heels, is Spain’s Santiago Tarrio Ben who signed for a nine-under 63 on the Montagu layout. Ernie Els who is making his debut appearance in this 25-year old tournament, along with Zimbabwe’s Stephen Ferreira shot eight-under 64. Like Bezuidenhout, ‘The Big Easy’ was just as impressive on the Outeniqua track. He, too, opened his round back-to-back birdies and after five straight pars, two more birdies went onto his card to turn in 32. He made further gains at the turn, making it three birdies in a row. After six straight pars, Els made an eagle and closed off with a birdie to sign for an untainted 64. “It was really nice today,” said Els who boasts 71 professional victories in a glittering career. “I’ve played this course many times and I’ve been coming to Fancourt for 30 years. It’s the kind of course that, at my age, I can play. It’s almost like a (PGA) Champions Tour layout. Good drives and a lot of irons to the flags. I played nicely and those last two putts, obviously, made my day. “The experience here so far has been great. I’ve never played this event and when I looked at my schedule a couple of weeks ago, I said to Jeremy (Ord) ‘I will be in South Africa, can you give me a spot?’ and he said ‘sure’. So, it’s my first time playing this tournament in 25 years of history.” Ferreira, who played on the Montagu layout, made nine birdies and a single bogey during his opening round at Fancourt. Tying fifth on the score of seven-under 65 is Haydn Porteous, Germany’s Marcel Siem, 2016 winner of this tournament George Coetzee, Jean Hugo, the in-form JC Ritchie, Daniel Hillier of New Zealand and rookie, Deon Germishuys.  
Auto Draft 101

Dimension Data Pro-Am: What’s what

We return to the magnificent Fancourt this week for the penultima event on the schedule, the Dimension Data Pro-Am. This year’s event marks the 25th year of play on the Sunshine Tour (and was co-sanctioned with the European Tour for the first two years) and is, for the first time, co-sanctioned with the European Challenge Tour. As has become the norm, the tournament will be played on all three course – Montagu, Outeniqua and The Links at Fancourt – from February 13 to 16. The format: 72 HOLE STROKEPLAY - 180 Professionals will make up the field. The cut will be to 60 players and ties, after round three. Each contestant will play one round on Montagu, Outeniqua & The Links Golf Courses. The final round will be played on the Montagu Golf Course. In the event of a tie for first place, there will be a sudden-death playoff on holes to be determined by the Tournament Director. 72 HOLE BETTERBALL MEDAL - 180 Professionals and 180 Amateurs make up the Pro-Am field. Players drawn together in one team stay together for the duration of the tournament. The format is Betterball Medal, the best net score on each hole to count. Each team will play one round on the Montagu, Outeniqua & The Links Golf Courses. On conclusion of the third round, there will be a cut to the leading 26 team scores. All teams making the 54-hole cut will contest the final round to be played on the Montagu GC. Defending champion: Sweden’s Philip Eriksson is the defending champion after he Justin Walters by three shots on 21-under-par 268. The Courses: The Links: This is regarded as the hallmark of this estate, with undulating, windswept terrain and dune-style landscape. 6,755 metres in length, this championship course will test and bring joy to golfers of all levels. The fairways on this beautiful par-73 design are made up of four different season kinds of grass; the Kentucky Blue, Rye, Fescue and Bent, with the greens a dominant Bent. Outeniqua: This course provides for an easier game than its counterpart, the Montagu while offering its fair share of challenges and water hazards on as many as 11 of its holes, including four of the last five. Outeniqua rolls over 6,312 metres of greenery and regarded as the easier course to play in this world-class estate, but will punish any complacent golfer. Designed by Gary Player and named after the mountain range that forms its backdrop, the course is designed to accommodate a large volume of players. Grassed with Kikuyu on the fairways and Bentgrass on the greens, Outeniqua has been ranked the number one golf course in the country on a few occasions. Montagu: This 6,714-metre design is a tree-lined parklands layout, with a few slopes to climb, that is well-conditioned to provide the best-golfing experience.  Montagu and Outeniqua are closely related as they are both parkland layouts that wind across the undulating terrain. Montague, though, is the longer and arguably the tougher of the two with a host of wonderfully designed holes. Several tight fairways here will demand accuracy and as well as length from the tee, and those treacherous water hazards will dangerously punish any golfer who will stray towards them on certain holes. Boasting fast undulating greens, stylish bunkering and the ever-present backdrop of the Outeniqua mountains, Montagu is a world-class golf course by any standard.   Form player: There is no doubting Daniel van Tonder’s form headed into this week. He led for three straight rounds last week in Cape Town but faded away in the final round. He placed seventh thereafter a final-round 78, the only round he carded a score in the 70s for the entire tournament. Before then, in Limpopo, where he came ninth, Van Tonder looked a threat, especially after the opening round there where he blitzed to a nine-under-par 63 round. There too, he could not seal the win. In his five starts this year – including the Gauteng Team Championship – Van Tonder has missed the cut twice, first at SA Open and then in Dainfern. Worth noting, however, is that in the three events where he has not missed the cut, Van Tonder has been in contention. He came 12th year here last year and shared 32nd the year before. He will feel he can pose a threat in George this week, especially because of the form he’s recently shown. Plus, there’s the Order of Merit to fight for. He currently sits behind JC Ritchie on those standings, trailing by just a little over R100 000. He is the man to look put for this week and if his recent form is anything to go by, then Van Tonder is very capable of walking away with a victory here this week.   Sentimental pick: Jacques Kruyswijk will feel that with his performances in the last three to four weeks, he deserves a win. He walked away with two third-place finishes back-to-back – Eye of Africa PGA Championship and Limpopo Championship – and got a top 20 finish in Cape Town. His aggressive style has had some questioning whether or not it can deliver him victory but Kruyswijk is no stranger to the big stage and his 2016 victory in the Cape Town Open is testimony to this. He struggled in Europe last year but has started this year rejuvenated and by his own admission, in a better space mentally. While he has shown that he can produce the goods when it’s that time, Kruyswijk has struggled in the final round and as such, especially in the last few events, he lost narrowly lost out when many thought he’d run away with the victory. Be that as it may, however, Kruyswijk, on his day, can get the job done and an early victory on the Challenge Tour’s Road to Mallorca, will surely give him confidence moving forward. The bolter: Wilco Nienaber has left a lot of pundits and fans talking since making his Sunshine Tour debut. His length of the tee and his general demeanour has had many punting him as the next big star and his performances on the golf course have given a glimpse of what may yet come from the lanky 19-year old. He was on contention ahead of the final round in Cape Town and that result was preceded by a second-place finish in Limpopo. The former GolfRSA Elite Squad member was on course to finish in the top 10 at the Eye of Africa PGA Championship but forgot to sign his scorecard, an error which got him disqualified. Currently the longest-hitter on Tour and second to Garrick Higgo on the rookie of the year race, Nienaber looks like he is intent on winning something quite early in his career and as Higgo did in only his fifth start as a pro when he clinched the Sun City Challenge, Nienaber has shown all the qualities of a veteran winner and it would be a pleasant surprise to a lot of people if he won here this week.  
Karlsson seals maiden victory in Cape Town

Karlsson seals maiden victory at Cape Town Open

Sweden’s Anton Karlsson joked on Saturday that he was going to claim a come-from-behind victory at the RAM Cape Town Open and did just that on Sunday, winning it by one stroke over Garrick Higgo on 14-under-par 274 at Royal Cape. He was three shots off the pace set by Daniel van Tonder at the start of the final round and a bogey on the first hole threatened to set him back even further. Another bogey, on the fourth, followed before he could make any gains. He brought it back to level-par with birdies on the seventh and ninth holes to give himself an opportunity at a win. “It was tough out there and I wasn’t really in the best spots in those first few holes,” he said. “The wind was the worst I’ve seen in a long time. But I spoke to my caddie and I said it was going to be a tough day for everyone.” He took to the back nine with some flair, however, birdieing the next four holes one after the other to make it six birdies in seven holes and get it to 15-under par. A disappointing bogey on the 15th took from those gains and with Garrick Higgo sitting in the clubhouse at 13-under, Karlsson knew he could not afford to falter again. He kept it steady from there, making four straight pars highlighted by an impressive save on the last hole to finish at 14-under. “To win here feels so good,” he admits, “for the first time, I was not really sure what score I was on for the day. I knew I was on top of the leaderboard but I couldn’t tell by how many shots I was leading and I saw Higgo finished well at 13-under so I had to play solid golf. It was pretty brutal out there but I’m very happy to have pulled it together like that. It’s always important to get the season off to a good start because you can really get going after that.” A third successive five-under 67 proved not enough to get Higgo into a playoff and give him an opportunity to make it two wins in his rookie season on the Sunshine Tour.
No slowing down for Van Tonder in Cape Town 2

No slowing down for Van Tonder in Cape Town

Daniel van Tonder’s fine form continued in round three of the RAM Cape Town Open where he shot an eventful three-under-par 69 to total 14-under and take a two-stroke lead into the final round at Royal Cape Golf Club. He went birdie, bogey and birdie on his opening three holes, then, three pars later, made another birdie on the par-five seventh. That was soon threatened by the bogey he made on the ninth. Back-to-back birdies on the 11th and 12th then made their way onto his card before another bogey came, this time on the 15th hole. That bogey was immediately followed by a birdie on 16 which sealed a three-under-par round. “It wasn’t too tough out there,” said Van Tonder whose confidence seems to reflect his current form. “There were a few tough pins out there. I managed to shoot under par but I did find myself in some danger a few times. But I made a couple of birdies as well, so, that helped.” The three bogeys he made on day three were the first he has made in 54 holes, a sign of a man who is high on confidence. “I can’t say I’ve left a few out there,” he admits, “I missed one short putt on one of the par-fives.” Lurking dangerously following a stunning round of eight-under-par 64 which took his total to 12-under for the week, is Luke Jerling. Seven birdies, an eagle and a single bogey characterised his third round as he got himself in the mix ahead of the final round of this event which is co-sanctioned with the European Challenge Tour. “I love this golf course,” said Jerling who is still looking for his breakthrough win on Tour. “It reminds me a little bit of my home course, PE Golf Club. A little bit of a breeze, greens running pure and I had a great day. Last week I struggled a lot with my ball-striking and I wasn’t happy with my game but I talked to my coach and sorted a few swings. Started working on the range for a few days and started hitting a few shots with the middle of the clubface, then you realise you haven’t really lost it. This course suits me.” Third on the leaderboard and a shot behind Jerling lies Sweden’s Anton Karlsson on 11-under par after he shot a 64 of his own to make moving day count. He is followed by JC Ritchie at 10-under while Wilco Nienaber, Toby Tree Daniel Young, Damien Perrier, and Harry Ellis share the fifth spot on nine-under for the week.
Van Tonder hangs on to Cape Town Open lead

Van Tonder hangs on to Cape Town Open lead

Another bogey-free round – a 67 this time – saw Daniel van Tonder keep his place atop the leaderboard on a total of 11-under-par after 36 holes in the RAM Cape Town Open while taking a -one-shot lead into the third round which will be played at Royal Cape Golf Club. In what was a similar start to his opening round, Van Tonder had to make do with three consecutive pars before making his first birdie of the day at Royal Cape. Then, he found joy, birdieing the par-three fourth. Two more birdies – this time on the sixth and seventh holes – got onto his card and another on the ninth to turn in 32. Coming home, Van Tonder didn’t make any more birdies until the one he picked up on the 17th to sign for another untainted round of golf in Cape Town. “We made it easy out there,” says the man who sits third on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, “We tried to hit fairways today but missed a few. But we recovered from there and hit the greens and made a few putts, so I’m happy.” While there was some wind at the start of the round, it was nothing like yesterday’s and Van Tonder was happy to take advantage. “Yesterday was a bit of a mission out there with that wind,” he admitted, “but, today was one-club wind for me so it wasn’t as bad but you still need to hit the good shots and really strike the ball. Otherwise, the wind will play with you ball in the air. But I enjoy it out here, maybe I just like bad weather. “Both courses play similar but I just think the greens at Royal Cape roll a little bit faster. But, from tee to green, I am playing solidly and if I get myself in the bush, I can recover. Just give me a swing and I’ll make a plan to get out of there somehow.” Hot on Van Tonder’s heels is Italy’s Aron Zemmer, who carded a perfect seven-under 65 which catapulted him to second after two rounds of golf. He made his gains on the second, seventh, ninth, 11th, 12th, 14th and 17th holes. A further two strokes from Van Tonder’s lead is Mitch Waite of England who is followed by compatriot Toby Tree who shares the fourth spot with JC Ritchie on a tournament total of eight-under-par.
Blemish-free Van Tonder in slim Cape Town Open lead 1

Blemish-free Van Tonder in slim Cape Town Open lead

Daniel van Tonder carded a bogey-free six-under-par 66 in the opening round of this year’s edition of the RAM Cape Town Open co-sanctioned with the European Challenge Tour and hosted at Royal Cape and King David Mowbray Golf Club. Van Tonder had to wait four holes before making his first birdie of the day on the King David Mowbray golf course and would not make any more birdies on that front nine as he turned in 35. He turned things up on the homeward stretch, making back-to-back birdies on the 10th and 11th before a par on the 12th threatened to slow him down. He shrugged that off expertly, bouncing back with a birdie on 13 before making a game-changing eagle in the next hole. He kept things steady from there on, making pars in the last four holes to sign for a blemish-free 66. “The wind was blowing hard hey,” he said, describing the conditions most of the morning field had to contend with on day one. “It was gusting and stuff. Sometimes on 110 yards, I was hitting a 6 iron. Hitting it low and hard and trying to keep it nicely in play. It was tough. “It is very difficult to commit to a club when the wind is like that. Most of the time here the wind is in off the right and sometimes you have to aim 40 metres right of the green and trust the wind to bring it back. But it was fun. “Overall, I’m happy with my score. It felt easier, I don’t know why, maybe because I was listening to my wife who’s on the bag. It felt easy.” Lurking closely just a shot off Van Tonder’s pace is England’s Toby Tree whose familiarity with the courses and grasses in South Africa must be attributed to the couple of years he spent here as a Sunshine Tour member. He carded a five-under 67 opening round on the King David Mowbray Golf Club track. His round was characterised by an eagle, four birdies and a single dropped shot in windy conditions in Pinelands. Lying two strokes behind Van Tonder and in a share of third in JC Ritchie and France’s Damien Perrier who both signed for 68s. Italy’s Aron Zemmer and the English pair of Mitch Waite and Harry Ellis share the fifth spot on three-under-par while Belgium’s Christopher Mivis, Martin Simonsen and Nicolai Kristensen of Denmark and Jean Hugo are among the 11 players who share eighth on two-under-par after the first round in Cape Town.
Nienaber to call on amateur experience in Cape Town

Nienaber to call on amateur experience in Cape Town

Exciting rookie Wilco Nienaber says having enjoyed success as an amateur in the windy Cape, he is more than ready to get going at this year’s RAM Cape Town Open co-sanctioned with the Challenge Tour. The tournament gets underway on Thursday and Nienaber returns to the Cape after some solid first few events as a pro. He was set for a top 10 finish at the Eye of Africa PGA Championship in Eikenhof three weeks ago but forgot to sign his scorecard, an error which got him disqualified. Then, two weeks later, he finished second in the Limpopo Championship, the first of three events the Sunshine Tour is co-sanctioning with the Challenge Tour this year. “I’d like to take that momentum into this week,” says Nienaber from Royal Cape Golf Club, one of the two venues that are set to host this mega showdown, the other venue being King David Mowbray Golf Club. “I played good golf at Eye of Africa, played good golf last week. So, I am looking forward to this week because I’ve had quite a bit of success down here in my amateur events.” While he has not won an event as a professional just yet, his length off the tee has had pundits and fans talking and to some extent, has left some even worried that he might be a little bit too aggressive on the ball. A tag which does little to bother him. “Because I hit the driver pretty long, I guess some people will see me as an aggressive player,” he notes, “I think I am an aggressive player because I know that is my strongest point. But, it doesn’t bother me because coming to the Cape is the same game for me, you still  have to hit the fairways, still have to hit the greens even in the wind, it is just a little bit trickier to do it.” Like many golfers who have come down to Cape Town this week, Nienaber says he enjoys playing in this region despite the frequent and gusting winds which the area is associated with. “I don’t know,” he says when asked about what it is that players enjoy the most about coming down to the Mother City, “You see the Table Mountain while playing, it’s relaxed, the people in Cape Town tend to come out and watch us play, so there’s no one specific thing you can say you enjoy. It’s just a great experience to come down here. “This week is a bit different to last week because last week it was bushveld and it was pretty wide,” he says when explaining what it takes to play well here. “Here, it’s tree-lined and you’ve got to hit good shots to have an opening for your second shot and to be able to hit the greens on the right spots, you have to hit the fairways, that’s just it.”
Follett-Smith ready to shrug off season’s struggles in Cape Town 1

Follett-Smith ready to shrug off season’s struggles in Cape Town

Defending champion of the RAM Cape Town Open, Benjamin Follett-Smith of Zimbabwe says while he aims to defend his title this week in Cape Town, he has few expectations this year following a rather difficult spell on Tour since his win here. He has made the cut five times in 19 starts this season and admits he’s struggled while also pointing out what the courses for such struggles may have been. “Very few expectations this week,” he says ahead of this year’s edition which is co-sanctioned with the Challenge Tour. “I’ve learnt my lesson last year. I struggled this year because my expectations got too high. Now, I’m just trying to maintain composure; hit fairways, hit greens and just make sure I do the basics right. If you get the basics right, you should be able to give yourself chances.” He admits, however, that all is not lost for him because regardless of the undesirable results he’s gotten this season so far, he is still learning about the game and about himself as well. “It’s a learning curve,” he notes, “because this year, I’ve missed more cuts that I have done in my whole career. It’s just learning how to get back up bigger and stronger. I’ve taken five steps back but I’m trying to take them forward now.” A fierce competitor of his calibre is not to be distracted by a series of unwanted results, however, and in all his struggles, Follett-Smith has had some positives to draw on and the eighth-place finish he and his compatriot Stephen Ferreira got in the team championship a fortnight ago, is one such positive. “At team champs, I hit the ball really well,” he says, “and it was easier because I had Stephen backing me up. But I did hit it well and that showed me that when I am confident, I can pull through. Obviously, with a few mishaps and not playing well, the confidence will go down but coming to a place where I have succeeded, seeing the positives, seeing what I did and what I can do, is helping the confidence. So, I feel good and I feel like I can compete again.” No matter his current form and the struggles with which he has had to deal with on the golf course, Follett-Smith is ready for everything this great championship has to throw at him. “I hope the wind picks up,” he says with a smile, “I really like it here when it gets windy. It just makes things a little bit more interesting.”

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