Justin Harding - worth celebratingThe simple takeaway: Justin Harding has fought for and deserves his place amongst golf’s elite. He rose to 44th in the world on the Official World Golf Ranking after his share of 12th in the Masters last week, and even if that was overshadowed by the enormity of Tiger Woods’ astonishing victory at Augusta National, Harding’s ranking anchors in reality the feel-good stuff that has been floating about out there. A lot of the conversation on social media during Harding’s week at the Masters seemed to celebrate, certainly, but at the same time be almost disbelieving about the level of his performance, and sometimes reflexively defensive of both his performance and of the man. If anything, his frailties and the way he handled them – he didn’t card a single round over-par through the tournament – spoke to a degree of comfort at a level at which many seemed to think he might find himself out of his depth. On the contrary, the way he produced some stellar play at critical moments to keep himself in the mix – if not in contention – spoke volumes of his golf pedigree and how it has been developed on one of the under-recognised professional tours of the world. By way of example, his birdie putt on the final hole got him into his share of 12th, and ensured that he would be back at Augusta National next year, no matter what. Through it all – the whole roller-coaster of emotions the experience must have produced for him – he unfailingly displayed his trademark self-deprecation in a way which endeared him to all who were encountering him for the first time. That down-to-earth nature has ensured that his example is one which maps out the way for Sunshine Tour professionals of all ages. He has become one of South Africa’s top golfers – in the company of the likes of Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace – and he has done so from a position that many would have thought left him diminishing options for the rest of his career. His presence at local Sunshine Tour events will be limited in future, and, in one way, that’s sad. He plays in Canada this week, although quite how he lifts himself after the week he’s just had is beyond comprehension. In another way, it’s worth celebrating. And he surely knows just how much he is celebrated on the Sunshine Tour right now.  
Oosthuizen's 66 vaults him to Augusta lead 2It was his best round at Augusta National, and Louis Oosthuizen’s six-under-par 66 made him one of a five-man group in a share of the lead at the halfway mark of the Masters. For the chasers one stroke back, that group should look pretty intimidating: Francesco Molinari, Jason Day, Brooks Koepka and Adam Scott are the other members. Seven majors between those five players. But then again, Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson are just one stroke back, and there’s a small matter of 15 majors between them. Four green jackets for Tiger. And also one stroke back, the absurdly talented Xander Schauffele. And Justin Harding. Don’t ever count Harding out. For Oosthuizen, seven birdies would have given him as much heart as the solitary bogey irritated him. In the end, the 66 was two strokes better than the 68 he opened with in 2012 when Bubba Watson broke his heart with that play-off shot. With memories of that no doubt still in his calculations, he knows as well as anyone what is coming. “I just need a decent, solid round tomorrow,” Oosthuizen said. “Not play yourself out of it and stay in touch with everyone. This golf course, you win it on the back nine on Sunday. We’ve seen over the years anything can happen on the back nine.” Oosthuizen opened his round with a quick birdie on the first after sinking a 24-foot putt. He appeared frustrated after his second shot, but quickly smiled after seeing the ball drop in the hole. This set the pace for his round as Oosthuizen began to get hot with his putter. The 2010 Open champion was tied for second with Billy Horschel in putts made over 20-feet with three. Oosthuizen nearly aced the 240-yard par-three fourth after landing the ball within a foot of the pin. He tapped in for birdie. The 19th-ranked golfer in the world made four birdies on the front nine and carded a clean back nine with birdies on holes 12, 13 and 15. Harding’s back nine came agonisingly close to being clean too, but for bogey in 10 caused by a fluffed bunker shot, and a woeful tee shot on 18. Even after that, he nearly saved par on 18, which would have vaulted him into a share of the lead. Nonetheless, his performance keeps the commentators struggling to find anything accurate to say about him. (Samples: ‘He comes from West Somerset.’ ‘He wasn’t in Zambia this week to defend his title there.’) And his approach to being on the stage at all is refreshing. “Look, it still gives me the giggles just being here,” said Harding. “I’ve got a couple of friends out here, family is out watching, as well. We’re just having a nice time and enjoying the birdies.” If he makes four in a row on the back nine on Sunday, as he did in the second round, there will be some nervous giggles from a lot of the other contenders.  
Go back, Hack, and do it again!In the immortal words of Steely Dan (or near enough, anyway), ‘Go back, Hack, and do it again!’ Justin Harding – nicknamed ‘Hack’ by friends and foes – had the parochial US golf writers scrambling for Google and Wikipedia on Thursday as he carded an opening three-under-par 69 in the Masters at Augusta National to set an early clubhouse lead. Although it was overtaken by the sparkling six-unders from Bryson de Chambeau and Brooks Koepka, it was a good enough round to have caught the attention of the world. ‘Who is Justin Harding: The unknown golfer surprising at the Masters’, asked the New York Post. ‘Fun fact: Justin Harding isn’t in the official #TheMasters Spectator Guide because he just got into the field last week’, tweeted John Hart, anchor of WJBF NewsChannel 6. And the official Masters video summary of round one managed to mention a player who finished one shot worse than Harding without noting Harding’s debut round in the year’s first major. So, along with thousands of South African golf fans, we say again, ‘Go back, Hack, and do it again!’ Because we know he has the kind of game that is imminently suited to Augusta National – that shot off the tee that looks like a poke and then travels 300 yards; those laser irons that find greens, and then that stroke with the long putter which brought him 143 birdies in just 33 rounds on the Sunshine Tour last season on his way to two titles. We also know that Augusta National will prove to be a monster at some stage this weekend, but we have faith that he will deal with that with his new-found equanimity: “I’m seeing a golf course for the first time almost every week,” Harding said, “so not taking any real demons, any bad shots or bad memories into them – helps, I suppose. But then again, I also watched the Masters a few times on TV, so you see what everybody gets up to. “That also comes in not really playing the aggressive mindset game that I was in the past. Kind of hitting three-woods off the tee now, laying back on driveable par-fours, just trying to be a little bit smarter on the golf course, and, in doing so, making less mistakes and hoping a couple birdies come.” Three more rounds of the same, and it will be fun to see where that leads on Sunday. For him, too, we suspect. “It was good fun; I thoroughly enjoyed it,” the 33-year-old South African said. “I handled the emotions of the day very well – better than I expected. “Just kind of worked my way in. Made a couple coming in and then, obviously, the bogey on 18 was a bit naughty, but I was seeing stars in that bunker – that bunker is bright. “I would have loved to have come into the clubhouse at minus four,” he added. “I was actually trying to give myself another birdie chance, but sometimes it doesn’t happen. That’s all right. We’ve got a lot of golf left.” There is a lot left. So, ‘Go back, Hack, and do it again!’  
Stunning Ritchie eagle brings Zanaco Masters play-off winHe fought his way into a play-off with an incredible eagle on the last hole of regulation play on Sunday, and then JC Ritchie made an unlikely birdie on the first play-off hole to take a thrilling victory in the Zanaco Masters at Lusaka Golf Club. He drew level with Rhys Enoch of Wales with that eagle, and then survived an excursion into the hospitality marquee at the par-five 18th in the play-off to sink a nine-footer for birdie and take his fourth Sunshine Tour title after a roller-coaster of a final round in which Enoch appeared to have the upper hand for most of the day. “I backed off the approach to 18 in regulation play,” said Ritchie. “I had 174 to the flag and I was straight in between an eight and a nine. I asked my caddie, ‘Am I trying to make birdie or am I trying to win the tournament?’ We decided that if I jumped on a nine-iron, I could get it there. We could cover the bunker and I absolutely flushed it straight at the pin. It was all or nothing at that point. “The play-off was tricky. I didn’t think I had a chance after Rhys hit his drive miles up the fairway – it was probably 70 yards by me. I had an extra 40 metres further than I had in regulation play. After putting it in the tent, I just tried to give myself a chance because I’m putting really well. I feel for Rhys three-putting the last, because that’s not the way you want to win it, but that’s the way it goes.” Enoch had played the front nine as well as anyone in the final round, turning in two-under 33 without dropping a shot, while Ritchie had made three bogeys and a birdie to find the overnight lead he had held had evaporated into nothing. “Today was the weirdest round of golf I’ve played in a while,” said Ritchie. “It just felt as if it didn’t want to go my way for the front nine. I was hitting the ball so well. I felt like I didn’t miss a shot and made three bogeys from nowhere. “Then I really just got on a run and it seemed to fall into place on the back nine. I was five-under after the 15th and I was playing really nicely. “Then on 16, we had a bit of a mix-up with the wind and the club. A huge gust of wind came up and I dumped it in the water. I thought it was pretty much done and I thought Rhys was going to get it to 19-under, as he was playing such good golf today. I missed a short birdie putt on 17 and I really didn’t think I had another chance. “Making eagle with that pin on 18 was a big ask. Lots of guys were saying I am one of the only guys this week who could stop it at that pin, so to be able to pull that shot off and to make the putt – I don’t have words.” Rookie Garrick Higgo capped a fine tournament with a closing four-under 69 to share third with England’s Chris Cannon, who closed with a three-under 70. For Ritchie, if you include the Team Championships which he won with Jaco Strydom, this was the fourth victory in nine months, and his second in the space of the last month – he took the Sun Carnival City Challenge in August, the Limpopo Championship at the beginning of March and now this one in Zambia for his second title outside South Africa after his maiden victory in Zimbabwe in 2017. “Africa has been an absolute blessing to me,” he said. “Every time I come out here, I feel at home. The fans are amazing. I love Africa – I’ll always keep coming back.”  
Lost ball no problem as Ritchie storms to Lusaka leadLosing a ball on the 10th hole on Saturday in the third round of the Zanako Masters at Lusaka Golf Club was not enough to stop JC Ritchie storming to a two-stroke lead with a superb seven-under-par 66. His only bogey of the day came on the 10th, but he more than made up for that with six birdies and an eagle as he moved to 15-under for the tournament. He leads a trio of players – England duo Chris Cannon and Ross McGowan, and South Africa’s Jaco Ahlers – who shared second on 13-under at the 54-hole mark. “I had an unlucky lost ball on 10, when the spotters didn’t see it, and made bogey there – I did lip out for par – but otherwise it was a terrific round,” said Ritchie. “I’m very pleased with it. I felt it was easy for me. Two weeks of hard work on the range started to pay off today. I hit my irons a lot better than yesterday. I managed to play the par-fives a lot better today as well. I managed to keep the ball in play all day.” On Lusaka Golf Club’s five par-fives, he made an eagle, two birdies, a par and that bogey on the 10th. That was after playing almost flawless golf around the front nine. “Any time you turn under par after the front nine here, you’re happy, because it’s so tough and demanding,” he said. “I turned three-under, and having the lost ball on the 10th dampened my spirits a little, but to jump straight back with two birdies and chipping in for eagle on 14 – that really got the round going nicely again.” The round was just another in a long series of good ones for Ritchie, who is now in contention more often than not. “It’s nice to finally feel as if I can contend every week,” he said. “A few years ago, before my first win in Zimbabwe, I didn’t really know if I was going to carry on playing. I’ve been on a high since I won there.” That high saw him erase a five-stroke lead that the halfway leader, Rhys Enoch of Wales, had on him. “Starting the day five shots back is a big number, especially with the guys playing as well as they are,” said Ritchie. “I thought a good 64-ish would get me right back in the mix. I saw some of the guys struggled a bit out there, so I’m really happy with seven-under today.” Ahlers was one of the guys who struggled, as he carded a one-under 72 after his brilliant second-round of eight-under. “I completely lost my swing,” he said. “It felt as if I was playing with a hosepipe.” Nevertheless, Ahlers managed to keep in touch with the top of the leaderboard and headed to the range after his round to try and find the swing which had him playing so well in the second round. Cannon went around without dropping a shot in his eight-under. “I have been playing well for the last couple of day,” he said. “I was just a little tidier today, and made a couple more putts, but nothing from length really.” McGowan went round in five-under 67, after turning in one-over, and he will be looking to add a second Zambian title to his name after he won the 2015 Mopani Redpath Zambia Open at Nkana Golf Club. But the way Ritchie was playing will make chasing him down tough. “For tomorrow, it’s all about playing the game the way I play it, playing the course the way I want to play it and not really worrying about what happens ahead of me,” said Ritchie. “They have to chase and not me. I feel comfortable. If I keep doing what I’m doing, I hope I can get another win.”  
Enoch blitzes the par-fives to lead Zanaco MastersRhys Enoch played the five par-fives at Lusaka Golf Club in six-under-par on Friday to race to an eight-under-par 65 and a one-shot lead at the halfway mark of the Zanaco Masters. He made six birdies and an eagle in his round without dropping a shot, and, together with his impressive opening 68, has moved to 13-under-par after 36 holes. Four of those birdies and the eagle came on the par-fives. “It was just a professional round of golf,” he said. “I took care of the par-fives early and then just kept ticking. It wasn’t as pretty as yesterday’s round but I just kept making pars and I started rolling in some putts towards the end which got me up even more.” He led Jaco Ahlers by one, after Ahlers had matched his feat of going six-under for the par-fives in his seven-under-par 66. Rourke van der Spuy carded an eventful three-under 69 with five bogeys, six birdies and an eagle to occupy third spot on nine-under, four off the lead. Enoch started his round on the 10th, and with the back nine of Lusaka Golf Club having four par-fives on it, he was soon shooting up the leaderboard as he turned in five-under-par 33, with three birdies and an eagle on those long holes. A birdie on the only par-five on the front none – the second – completed his par-five scoring collection for the day, but there were two more birdies to be had on the third and the ninth. Much of his success was due to his putting. “I started making just about everything I looked at yesterday, with three 20-footers in a row which was nice,” he said. “To finish today, I holed a nice one on nine, and holed about a 10-footer for par on eight. The putter’s rolling really nicely which has helped me up the leaderboard. “This is the best we’ve ever seen these greens. There’s so much growth and that makes it a lot easier to see the grain and because they’ve been cut down and rolled so nicely, the grain doesn’t do as much as it normally does. There are only four of five holes you’ve got to watch out for. I just feel I’m reading them pretty nicely and striking them nicely and they seem to be going in.” The difference in the courses between last week’s tournament at the difficult Nkana Golf Club, where he finished fifth, and this week’s at Lusaka also contributed to Enoch’s success. “Last week helped with my game plan here,” he said. You just had to keep bogeys off your card, and that’s all I’m really trying to do here. It’s not negative, but if I’m in any sort of trouble with a flyer-lie here, I just play to the front edge and just try and give myself an easy look at par. That seems to be paying off.” For Enoch, previous success around the course – he came seventh here in 2015 – is contributing to his performance this week. “This is the second time I’ve been 13-under after two rounds here,” he said. I don’t know what it is about the course. A lot of tee-shots suit my eye and I just enjoy playing here.” He’ll enjoy it more if he keeps going the way he is. “It’s never that easy to keep bogeys off the card on the weekend,” he acknowledged. “I know it gets a little harder, so I’ve got to draw on some experience, just be really, really patient and the birdies will come because I’m playing well.”  
Prinsloo gets hot in Lusaka for first-round leadJaco Prinsloo felt freed up after his tough week last week, and he made that feeling count on Thursday as he made five birdies and an eagle around the turn to take the first-round lead in the Zanaco Masters at Lusaka Golf Club at eight-under-par 65. That gave him a one-stroke edge over Kyle McClatchie, with Chris Swanepoel and Rourke van der Spuy each signing for six-under-par 67s on the par-73 layout in the Zambia capital. “I got off to a really good start,” said Prinsloo. “It got really hot around the turn. On the last five holes, I was fighting for a couple of pars, and I unfortunately didn’t birdie the last hole. But I’m smiling now.” His good start consisted of birdies on one and two, before he dropped a shot on four. He birdied six and then bogeyed seven before he set off on his brilliant run around the turn. He birdied eight, nine, 10, 11 and 12 before making eagle on 13 to take advantage of afternoon conditions which were much stiller than in the morning. “The wind dropped quite a bit this afternoon,” he said. “It’s funny here in Lusaka – it always blows in the morning and then tends to calm down – so conditions were perfect, especially on the back nine and that’s where I made it count.” It was a case of taking advantage of a course which played much easier than Nkana Golf Club did last week, and he has put himself in a position to improve on his top-10 finish there. “I love the course,” he said. “Last week we had it really tough. Nkana was a beast. This one’s not wide by any means, but there are a couple of holes where you can let loose and hit it, and that’s what I like doing. The whole of last week, I think I hit six drivers. Taking a good whack at it here just frees me up and makes me swing better. There’s no fear and you can just play your game. “The course is playing really well. The greens are really nice and that’s what we want – good greens!” McClatchie had an awful season last year, and it took a trip back to qualifying school for him to regain his playing rights on the Sunshine Tour. He made nine birdies and two bogeys in his round after missing the cut last week, and he reckons that enjoying the game again has helped him get back the form which saw him look such a hot property when he turned professional. “One of the big things I’ve worked on for the last couple of months is trying to enjoy myself on the course again,” he said. “You try to do well, and it starts getting tricky in your head – and having fun on the course is a big part of playing good golf.” Prinsloo certainly had fun. After a relatively quiet 2018-19, he’s come into the new season hot. “I started to get some form last season at Dimension Data, and then I had a good finish last week,” he said. “It’s still early days, but I feel I’m hitting the ball well and I’m looking forward to the rest of the week.”  
Ahlers relishing Lusaka challenge in Zanaco MastersHe started the Sunshine Tour’s 2019-20 season with a share of sixth last week, and Jaco Ahlers is looking to add to his seven career titles with a victory in the Zanaco Masters which tees off on Thursday at the Lusaka Golf Club. He lost in a four-man play-off in last year’s event to eventual winner JJ Senekal, and that was the first of 10 top-10 finishes for his season that couldn’t quite give him his first win since February 2018 when he won the Dimension Data Pro-am “My game’s in pretty good shape,” he said. “I’ve been playing nicely for the last few weeks. I just can’t get over that winning hurdle. It’s getting close. I’ve been working hard at it for the last few months and it’s starting to show good signs and I like the way it’s trending. I hope I can do something this week. “It’s always a nice week. We stay with such good people and they make it a special week. Last year, losing in a play-off, you always want to go one better, so I’m looking forward to it.” His sixth-place last week came on the tough Nkana Golf Club where the rough was really thick and punitive, but, with a win in Zambia under his belt already – the 2016 KCM Zambia Open at Nchanga Golf Club – Ahlers is fond of the courses in Zambia and looking forward to his outing in Lusaka. “I do like the course,” he said. “I like the layouts in Africa, I must say – the old colonial style. This one is very good. It’s tree-lined, it’s a parkland course, it’s not a massive property where you have to walk long distances between holes. It’s a nice blend – dog-leg left, dog-leg right, short holes, long holes. I think it’s a great golf course.” There has been a change to the course since last year’s tournament. It was played as a par-72 layout last year, with the 13th a par-four instead of its usual par-five for members. The 472-metre hole duly bared its teeth and delivered 159 bogeys, 52 doubles, six triples and a quadruple to play at an average of 4.61. Ahlers made a birdie in rounf one, two bogeys in rounds two and three, and parred it in the final round. “I didn’t know it had changed,” said Ahlers ahead of his tee-off time in Wednesday’s pro-am. “At the end of the day it’s about the score, so it doesn’t really matter. You’ve just got to shoot the lowest score. “It’s designed as a par-five, so it’s a better way to play it. It was mentally disruptive if you made bogey there last year. Thing is it’s a double-tiered green and difficult to hit if the pin is at the top and you’re coming in with a six- or seven-iron. If it’s a par-four, you end up making more bogeys than feels right.” He’ll be acutely aware that he’ll need to do better than simply feel right this week, with last week’s winner Daniel van Tonder in the field, together with defending champion Senekal with whom he shared sixth at Nkana.  
Zanaco Masters: What’s whatThe Sunshine Tour moves to the second tournament of the 2019-20 season at the Zanaco Masters in the capital of Zambia at Lusaka Golf Club. The R2-million event starts on Thursday, April 4 and ends on Sunday, April 7. Now in its second year, the Zanaco Masters used to be the Zambia Sugar Open, and its new name clears up confusion between it and the Mopani Redpath Greendoor Logistics Zambia Open JJ Senekal, the defending champion is one of three previous winners of the event in the field this week with Vaughn Groenewald and Lyle Rowe the other two. The event is yet to be successfully defended. The format: The competition will be decided over 72 holes of stroke play. After 36 holes there will be a cut to the leading 60 professionals and those who tie on the score. The field: 156 (126 Sunshine Tour players, 30 Zambian players, including 10 amateurs). Defending champion: JJ Senekal’s victory last year was decided on the fourth play-off hole after he finished in a tie on 14-under-par 274 in regulation play with Andre De Decker, Jaco Ahlers and Alex Haindl. The course: The Lusaka Golf Club in Zambia boasts an 18-hole, par 73, 6,608-metre course that is incorporated into a parkland setting. The greens conform to international standards and the Lusaka Golf Club is probably one of Zambia's most prestigious sporting facility, attracting a good cross-section of golfing nationalities to Zambia. It was officially opened in 1935. A few alterations were made during World War II, which saw the addition of new holes. The course as we know it today was developed in 1958. This when the first grass was planted and by 1962 it had all the 18 holes fully developed. In 1993 the first (computer-controlled) state-of-the-art irrigation system was installed. This transformed the fairways. There have been several changes and improvements to the course making it even tougher. Form player: Christiaan Basson (pictured) did not miss a cut in his last five starts of last season, including his eighth-place finish at the Limpopo Championship. He finished in a share of sixth last week at this season’s opening event, the Mopani Redpath Greendoor Logistics Zambia Open. He has done well in his two last appearances at the Zanaco Masters, boasting a share of ninth last year and of fifth in 2017. All the signs show that Basson is close to registering his fifth win on tour and this week presents him an opportunity for that. Sentimental pick: As always, the man who was junior champion at Lusaka Golf Club four years in a row from 1997 to 2000, Madalitso Muthiya would make a sensational winner at his home club should he manage to pull off a victory. He was the leading Zambian player in last week’s event at Nkana Golf Club, finishing 35th at nine-over-par on a course that played tough and was set up tough. In his home conditions, he will be happy to convert that grit into a popular win. The bolter: Jacques P de Villiers missed 15 cuts from 22 starts last season but he has shown that he can produce some good results on a good week as his three top-10s last season attest. He got the new season off to a great start in Kitwe, placing in a share of 10th at the Zambia Open. After that his confidence will be right up there and he will want to do well this week. The Schoeman Park Golf Club representative will want to register his first win on the Sunshine Tour sooner rather than later, what a better way to do it than early on in the season.  
First win in five years for Van Tonder in ZambiaDaniel van Tonder hadn’t won in nearly five years until he pulled off a one-stroke victory on Sunday in the Mopani Redpath Greendoor Logistics Zambia Open at Nkana Golf Club. On a course which yielded just four 72-hole totals that were under par, he closed with a two-under 70 to move to five-under for the week and a one-stroke victory over Callum Mowat. Neil Schietekat and Jacques Blaauw shared third on one-under, three shots further back. “It feels great,” said van Tonder. “I was close a few times last year. I’ve been up and down, and inconsistent here and there, but I changed balls and since then I’ve become more consistent.” He started the final round as if he meant to put daylight between himself and his challengers with three birdies in the first four holes, but bogeys on eight, 10 and 11 brought him back to the field. He birdied 12, but Mowat was always within striking distance and it wasn’t until he birdied 16 that he felt he could breathe easy. “Once I got the final birdie on 16, I felt I could relax,” he said. “On 17, I wanted to make a birdie to have a two-shot cushion. I knew 18 was driveable, but after seeing Mowat making par there, I knew I didn’t have to go for the green.” He put his approach just over the green into the fringe, and elected to putt from there. “That putt from off the green on 18 was straight into the grain,” he said. “I felt I could chip it in but I knew I could make an easy two-putt and it would be fine.” That decision was emblematic of the way his game has rounded out since his last win – and one of the reasons for that is the relationship with his caddie, wife Abigail. “My caddie lets me be aggressive like I want to be. There’s no-one holding me back and she keeps me positive. “She said I should do what I felt like doing on 18,” he said. “I felt like laying up, but before I hit it, I asked her if she though I needed to go for the green. She looked at me, but I laughed and said, ‘Let’s lay up!’” Through all that, it was his insistence on continuing to use driver on a course that was clearly punishing wayward tee shot severely throughout the week that eventually set him apart – and recalled the days of his early Sunshine Tour wins which came with freewheeling adventurousness. “I enjoy playing adventurous golf,” he said. “I can hit the ball far if I want to, but this week I didn’t need to. Shape a draw or fade, that’s fine with me. I love the course here. It’s tight and I love that. Not everyone is as accurate as I am with the driver so I take advantage of that.” He was just relieved that taking advantage brought him his first win since June 2014. “I’ve been playing well for a while but it hasn’t been showing in my scores, but finally, something came,” he said.  
Van Tonder drives into Zambia Open leadWhile all about him were playing it safe, Daniel van Tonder was using his driver at every opportunity on Saturday on his way to a four-under-par 68 and the 54-hole lead of the Mopani Redpath Greendoor Logistics Zambia Open. He made six birdies and just two bogeys at Nkana Golf Club which has tested the players to the utmost. In fact, Van Tonder’s round – and Callum Mowat’s 68 – was the lowest of the week and gave him a two-stroke edge over JJ Senekal and Jacques Blaauw going into the final round. “The biggest thing in my game at the moment is the driver,” said Van Tonder. “I’m hitting driver everywhere which means I’m chipping the whole time. It gives me an advantage over everyone. It’s a short course but it’s very tight. I use driver to hit it as close as possible and from there chip and putt. I’m just having a few bad breaks with the putts on these greens.” That approach worked especially well on the 18th, where the tee-box was put forward in an attempt to entice the players to go for the pin over the water in front of the green. “Standing on the tee box, my wife actually asked me if I was going to lay up and I said, ‘Well, no! I haven’t laid up once this week.’ I took driver straight at the pin. I hit it a bit too well. I think it bounced close to the pin and just went over the green and over the bunker. I chipped and almost made a nice eagle,” said Van Tonder. He took the birdie and, together with the one he made on 17, he’ll feel he has the momentum going into Sunday’s play. “Finishing birdie-birdie gives me a lot of confidence going into tomorrow,” he said. “I’ll just take tomorrow as another day. It’s another 18 holes and you have to play the golf course as you find it.” Senekal came charging through the field with five birdies between the 12th and 17th, a run that was spoiled by a bogey on the 16th. “I started the round hitting the ball very nicely, but couldn’t make a putt to save my life,” he said. “I actually changed my grip halfway through the front nine, and then I started making a couple and got myself back into it.” Blaauw started with a double bogey on the first, but he picked up four birdies against just one bogey for the rest of his round to move into his share of second. “I’ve been struggling to concentrate solely on the shot at hand,” he said. “On this course, you just have to make peace with the fact that you’re dropping shots. It’s a question of limiting the damage that the course inflicts.” It won’t stop inflicting damage in the final round.  
Louis finds his tempo in WGC-Match PlayLouis Oosthuizen found his putting rhythm as he progressed to the knockout stages of the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas with a commanding 4&3 win over Tommy Fleetwood on Friday. It set up a tough match in the round of 16 with Australia’s Marc Leishman. Branden Grace also made it into the round of 16 by domination his group which was headed by world number one Dustin Johnson. “I just found something early in the round that I had I started off looking for,” he said. “I felt was missing something in my putting stroke and found it. I started getting good hits on the putt and started reading it good, as well. So everything sort of fell in place. “It was tempo that was missing, really. I felt my tempo was out the first two days. I felt I got long on my back stroke and sort of decelerated through, and couldn’t really pinpoint what it was. And even just on my first putt today I did the same. And as I did it I sort of realized what I was doing wrong. After that, I started rolling the putts really good. And once you start rolling it good, you start reading it better and just knew I had to keep my ball in play because I’m going to have a chance on the greens.” Oosthuizen has started scrapping his way back into form ahead of the Masters next month, and the match play event has given him the perfect forum to regain his confidence. He hasn’t won that many holes in the event, but it has been enough to get him through on the back of the high number of birdies he’s made. “You can have those days where you’re not playing really good but sort of mentally you grind it out and fight it out and sort of don’t give your guy anything, just showing you’re there, not going away,” he said. He will need that kind of grit against Leishman, as the Aussie has been impressive this week. “It will be a tough match,” he said. “Marc is playing some good golf. It will be a tough match. Hopefully we play some good golf.” Grace will be up against Sergio Garcia, while Harding, who beat Luke List in his final match in the group stages, was not able to progress with Rory McIlroy dominating proceedings in that group. However, Harding has the consolation of being certain to finish inside the world’s top 50 and snaring that coveted invitation to play in the Masters.  

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