Slam-dunk Burmy in solid US Open startIf Dean Burmester takes just a single memory from his debut major, the slam-dunk eagle on 18 in the first round yesterday at Shinnecock Hills would be enough. But that eagle turned a so-so round into a good one – at least in the context of a brutal set-up which saw the lead shared by three players at one-under-par, and just four players at par or better. Burmester’s five-over looks impressive in that company. “When it went in, I was relieved,” said Burmester of his eagle. “I was having a long day, you know, seven-over. Ended up five-over, not too bad. It was a lovely way to finish.” It was an impressive hole all round, as the fans and the US media got to see Burmester at his best. He hit his drive a monstrous 411 yards, and had a gentle 117-yard lob wedge to the hole. “I was playing downwind off the left, my tee shot,” he said. “I hit a good drive down the right side which gave me a nice angle into that pin. Walked down there and we had 117 yards in the flag and it was a perfect lob wedge. So hit perfect lob wedge and slam dunked it straight in the hole.” Asked if he knew whether he had ever hit a drive that far, Burmester laughed. “Yeah, maybe down a tar road. But, yeah, I think just the way the course is playing pretty firm and the wind, it’s certainly possible this week.” The finish made Burmester the second-best South African in the field after Louis Oosthuizen posted a four-over 74, five shots behind Ian Poulter, Russell Henley and world number one Dustin Johnson. Branden Grace carded six-over, Dylan Frittelli and Ernie Els eight-over, and Charl Schwartzel battled to nine-over. Burmester’s grandstand finish means he is actually in the mix, and if he keeps things together, could get himself in contention. “That gives me some belief going in the weekend, you know,” he said. “Three under par rounds and you can still win this tournament. That’s the way it’s going and that’s the US Open. Being my first one, I’m learning and going step by step. “I can hit a few more drivers and be quite aggressive off the tee and leave shorter clubs in. Those greens are tough, man. I’ve never played anything quite like this. Shinnecock has got some teeth and certainly showed it today. If you short-side yourself around here, you are going to get in a lot of trouble. All in all, I’m pretty happy.” Unlike a lot of other players.  
Oosthuizen leading South African in US OpenThe last time the US Open was played at Shinnecock Hill in 2004, Retief Goosen won his second US Open title with a two-stroke edge over Phil Mickelson. He’s not there this year, but there are six South Africans who are. Dean Burmester, Ernie Els, Dylan Frittelli, Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel will fly the South African flag in the year’s second major, and they will be looking to emulate Goosen on a course where no-one is quite sure of what to expect. Back in 2004, Els finished ninth, Tim Clark 13th, Nick Price 24th and Trevor Immelman 55th, while Rory Sabbatini missed the cut. It was a tournament beset by controversy as the USGA allowed the turf to bake hard in the sun. The scorched green on the seventh became unplayable and had to be hand-watered intermittently, an unfortunate development that artificially changed the playing conditions from one group to the next. The players were nearly unanimous in blasting the set-up, but Goosen held his nerve, birdied the 16th hole and Mickelson double-bogeyed the par-3 17th. Looking for inspiration beyond 2004, South Africa’s top three players – Oosthuizen, Grace and Schwartzel – have to go no further back than the 2015 edition of the US Open at Chambers Bay which was won by Jordan Spieth. On the par-70 layout, Oosthuizen overcame a poor opening 77, compiling a closing three-under 67 to finish in a share of second. Grace and Schwartzel made it three top-10 finishes by South Africans – Grace’s final one-over 71 giving him a share of fourth and Schwartzel’s four-under 66 placing him seventh. Those three players – as well as Els – are no strangers to the pressures of playing in the US Open, and they all have a good shot at being able to pull off the win if they bring their A-games. And there is every indication that all three of them have rounded nicely into form ahead of the tournament. For Burmester and Frittelli, it’s a first taste of the major championship that prides itself on being the toughest of them all. Frittelli will be playing his fourth major after making his debut in the Open and the PGA Championship last year, and in the Masters earlier this year. Being US-based, he might find conditions to his liking, and he will have a better sense of the traditions the tournament tries to maintain when it comes to the conditioning of the course. Burmester, however, is playing in his first major, and, while he has the booming drive to contend with some of the big-hitters who are being touted as favourites this week, he will have to adapt very quickly to the tough conditions. The rough, in particular, will punish him if he’s wayward, and he will need to be patient on greens that will be faster than anything he has ever experienced. South Africa’s contenders:
  • Dean Burmester – world ranking 144, sixth-ranked South African player, first major, qualified through Sectional Qualifying at Walton Heath in England
  • Ernie Els – world ranking 696, making 26th appearance in US Open, won US Open twice (1994, 1997), gained special invitation this year, T55 last year, most recent top 10 was T4 in 2013
  • Dylan Frittelli – world ranking 62, fourth-ranked South African player, making first appearance in US Open and he will have played in all four majors now
  • Branden Grace – world ranking 34, sixth appearance in US Open, best finish T4 in 2015 (also T5 in 2016)
  • Louis Oosthuizen – world ranking 33, top-ranked South African player, ninth appearance in US Open (eighth if you don’t count his 2013 withdrawal), best finish T2 in 2015
  • Charl Schwartzel – world ranking 44, 12th appearance in US Open, best finish of 7th in 2015
Schietekat ends five-year winless run at Sun CityIt has been a while. It took Neil Schietekat all of five years to claim a second victory on the Sunshine Tour and after his triumph in the Sun City Challenge which he won with a total of six-under-par 210 on Thursday, the 34-year old admitted he’d begun to doubt whether he can win again. “It feels amazing,” he said after his win at the Gary Player Country Club. “Just the other day I was thinking I don’t know if I was going to win again. You know, when you have not won for so long, you don’t know if you can do it again.” That winless run ended this week. While he went into the final round trailing overnight leader, Jbe’ Kruger, by four shots, Schietekat knew he was not out of it yet and, in fact, had a real opportunity to make it two wins to his name. He got off to a flying start in the final round, making back-to-back birdies on the first two holes before making a par on the third. He looked like he’d lose ground in the race for the top spot on the leaderboard when he dropped a shot on the par-three fourth hole. He would not make any other bogey on the front nine, and to the contrary, he collected three more birdies, on six, eight and nine on his way to a five-under 67 final round. “I said to my caddie –I had Ray on the bag for the first time this week – ‘pars are a friend out here and if you make birdies, it’s good. If he (Kruger) comes back to us then obviously we’ve got a chance, which he can because this is a tough golf course,” he said of his mindset during the round. It was on the back nine where he seemed to struggle a bit. Despite making three birdies there – on the 10th, 14th and 16th – he also dropped shots on the 12th and the 13th. At this point, however, most of the work had been done. “I just hit great shots, good putts. The first week the putter is in the bag, the first week the caddie and we worked nicely together. It was a nice week. The putter was on and I think I had 25 putts today, so the putter was hot and if the putter is hot and you’re hitting it half decently, you’re going to win,” he added. While a second win has eluded Schietekat for the last half a decade, he had a really solid 2017-18 season where he had eight top-10s which included that runner-up finish at the Sun Carnival Challenge which was won by Kruger. That form didn’t quite carry through to this season because in the six events played thus far, he missed the cut twice (Zanaco Masters and Old Mutual Zimbabwe Open), finished 40th at the Investec Swazi Open and 33rd at the Lombard Insurance Classic before claiming the Sun City Challenge.  
Football great Radebe inspires Sunshine Tour pro BruinersBy Michael Vlismas When Lucas Radebe spoke to the Sunshine Tour’s Gary Player Class of golfers recently, what he said to inspire them hit Heinrich Bruiners like a one iron right between the eyes. “He told us that nobody can be you. You need to want to do this for yourself and not for anybody else,” Bruiners said. Radebe’s advice came during his motivational talk for the Tour’s talent identification squad, of which Bruiners is a member, at their boot camp at the World of Golf. The boot camps form part of a collective effort by the Tour and several major sponsors to give the Gary Player Class golfers every chance at success with access to the best practice facilities, coaching and advice. It builds on the work done by the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB) and other foundations such as the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation (EEFF) to develop talent, and then helps these players to make a success of their professional careers. And on this occasion, Radebe was encouraging them to look inwards and identify what really drives them to become better professional golfers. It’s a message Bruiners took to heart, because he went through a similar process on his own at the beginning of this year. “I took a long break from tournaments. I’d been playing events and getting nowhere. I was practising for five hours a day, hitting hundreds of golf balls on the range, and then going to the gym, but I realised I was doing it just to show people I’m working hard. So I cut down my practice time to make it more focused. I read somewhere that you have to live your performance and be in the zone all the time, not just when you’re competing. I practice with more intensity now rather than just mindlessly hitting balls.” The result has been a rise in form that recently saw Bruiners lose playoffs on the Sunshine Big Easy Tour and then the IGT Tour in successive weeks before finding himself near the top of the leaderboard again after the first round of this week’s Sun City Challenge on the Sunshine Tour. There’s a definite sense that Bruiners’s new approach is signalling a new phase in his career. He claimed his maiden and to date only victory on the Sunshine Tour in the 2013 Vodacom Origins of Golf at Euphoria Golf Estate. This came after he fought his way back from a serious car accident in 2010 where he was out of the game for two months. “I’ll be honest, there are still times when I’m playing in a bit of pain from the accident. But I don’t complain. The recent play-off defeats have taught me so much and shown me I’m headed in the right direction. It’s a learning process. There are so many things that influence you as a professional golfer, but like Lucas says, it’s about doing it for yourself regardless of what anybody else says. “I know I’m good enough to win again. It’s now just about me finding the right formula as I get to know myself better.”  
Birdie-blitz Kruger takes control at Sun CityJbe’ Kruger says he found something at the range this morning and whatever he found worked wonders as the reigning Sun Carnival City champion signed for a birdie-laden eight-under-par 64 in the second round of the Sun City Challenge. “I found something on the range this morning which made me swing a little bit freer,” he said after admitting that he has not been playing well at all lately. “and, not being scared of the shots that you want to play, that was probably the key.” While he didn’t equal or better the Gary Player Country Club course record 63 set by Sweden’s Henrik Stenson in 2008 and Ernie Els six years earlier, Kruger’s round was just as scintillating. Starting from the 10th tee, Kruger made two birdies on the trot just to set the tone and make his intentions clear. A par later, he made three more birdies one after the other, before picking up a bogey on his ninth hole, the 18th of the golf course. That drop didn’t seem to bother the four-time Sunshine Tour winner because he swiftly brushed that mishap aside and went on another three-birdie run at the turn all the way through to the 12th. Those birdies and the one he went on to make on the 15th sandwiched the two pars he picked up along the way, and, after making bogey on the par-three seventh, his 16th, another birdie found its way onto his card. “From the range, the confidence was already going,” he said of his fast start to the second round. “Because now I could swing freely, which I know I had a problem with the last few months.” That score took his total to five-under for the week and thus giving him a three-shot cushion ahead of the final round. A round like Kruger’s, laden with 10 birdies on a golf course as tough as the Gary Player Country Club, is spectacular by any standard, and even more so when the closest challenger shoots level par. That closest competitor was Louis de Jager. His was as eventful around as Kruger’s. Six birdies on his round two scorecard were accompanied by a pair of double-drops and the same number of bogeys. In a round where only six players shot below par, the two-under 70 that De Jager shot in round one proved enough to hand him the second spot on the leaderboard. Justin Harding, Wallie Coetsee, Neil Schietekat and Ulrich van den Berg all share the third position on one-under but of all four players, it was Van den Berg who shot a score below par, a 71 in round two. Schietekat and Coetsee both signed for a level-par round while Harding finished two-over-par. Members of the Gary Player Class of 2018-19 Franklin Manchest is in a three-man tie for seventh, while Jacquin Hess and Heinrich Bruiners share 10th with Merrick Bremner and Ockie Strydom.  
1Riekus Nortje produced the lowest score of the day when he shot an opening four-under-par 68 round of the Sun City Challenge held at the Gary Player Country Club on Thursday. Starting from the 10th tee, Nortje opened with a birdie before making three straight pars. Two more birdies made it onto his card on 13 and 14, his fourth and fifth holes, but Nortje followed those up with a bogey on the 15th. He made par on the next hole and followed that up with two more birdies to turn in 32 after an eventful front nine. “The putter rolled really well,” admitted Nortje, “I had a couple of putts from the fringe but luckily they weren’t too far from the hole. I am happy it has come together today, overall, my putting has been quite solid lately.” And while his putter did the business on the back nine, his front, the homeward stretch proved a little tricky for Nortje. He made two birdies there but those were canceled out by the two bogeys he made. Keeping the chase alive early on and just a single stroke behind Nortje is the duo of the on-form Justin Harding and rookie Estiaan Conradie who both signed for 69s. He, too, teed off from the 10th and apart from the lone birdie he made on his seventh hole, the 15th, that stretch was awfully quiet for Harding. Coming home, the recently crowned Lombard Insurance Classic champion kept his cool despite an uneventful front nine, making an eagle on his 11th hole, the second hole of the course. That eagle was followed by a bogey he feels could have been avoided. On the 15th, Harding picked up another birdie to take up the second spot behind Nortje. “It was a long day,” he said with a heavy sigh after his round. “It was eventful. There’s a lot going on here, it’s a tough golf course. It’s a grind and there’s no real time to let up. I did that once today with that silly bogey but otherwise, it was a decent enough round, I played solidly.” Conradie’s round was just as eventful as Harding’s, if not more. He made two eagles, two birdies, a bogey and a double drop on Tuesday. Sharing fourth on two-under 70 is Louis de Jager and Christiaan Basson while Neil Schietekat, JC Ritchie, and Wallie Coetsee are all tied for sixth after they all shot 71s. The round was suspended with two groups still out, due to bad light, and those players will resume the round before the start of the second round on Wednesday.  
Auto Draft 81Peter Karmis took last year’s Sun City Challenge in a play-off for his second title of a fruitful season, and he’s already shown enough signs of form to make him an early favourite for this year’s tournament when tees off at Gary Player Country Club on Tuesday. He finished the 54-hole tournament on six-under-par, sharing the top spot with Jake Roos, and then made par on the famous island green at Sun City to take the resulting play-off. Karmis played it smart on the play-off hole, even though he pushed his tee shot to the trees on the right of the fairway. He laid up and then hit a five-iron punch shot to about 100 yards, then placed himself 20 feet beyond the tight pin. “I always lay up,” laughed Karmis. “Even if I striped it down there, I was laying up. Normally I’m quite bold, but I just didn’t have the right club for the yardage. And I definitely wouldn’t have gone for the flag! “In regulation, I laid up with a gap wedge. Pretty lame, I know, and then I hit another gap wedge in close. That was the original strategy on the play-off hole.” Roos, on the other hand, tried to reach the green in two. He sent his second shot into the inside edge of the water and failed to make the putt to send the play-off to an additional hole after he took his penalty. Karmis has had a great start to the 2018-19 Sunshine Tour season, with two top-10s in the four tournaments he has played. He currently lies 13th on the Order of Merit behind leader Justin Harding, and he will be looking to make his way into the top 10 this week. He’s up against a strong field, with Harding in the midst of a purple patch which included two victories in the last two tournaments. Roos, too, has been impressive at the start of the season, with two top-10s including a marathon play-off loss in the last tournament to Harding. In addition, Karmis will face 2018 tourmanent winners in Rourke van der Spuy and JJ Senekal, while Daniel van Tonder had showed he’s rapidly approaching the kind of form which made him a multiple winner a few seasons back.  
Coetzee targets home soil win in Sun CityHome favourite George Coetzee has confirmed his participation in the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player, the penultimate Rolex Series event on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, from November 8-11, 2018. As the 2017-18 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit winner, Coetzee qualifies automatically for the event, in a season in which he has already triumphed on South African soil, capturing his second career Tshwane Open title in March. He will now tee it up in an elite field that includes 2017 Masters Champion Sergio Garcia at the Gary Player Country Club in Sun City. The 31 year old, who currently sits 41st in the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex, has shown a propensity for winning at home with three of his four European Tour victories coming in South Africa. Coetzee will look to follow in the footsteps of fellow countryman Branden Grace, who prevailed by a single shot at last year’s Nedbank Golf Challenge to become the first home winner of the event since Trevor Immelman in 2007, in the tournament’s inaugural year as a Rolex Series event. “I’m really looking forward to playing the Nedbank Golf Challenge this year,” Coetzee said. “Gary Player is genuinely a legend of our sport, and, for him to host it, it really doesn’t get any better. “It’s a fantastic tournament and I know all the players really enjoy coming out to South Africa because it is such a great week and an amazing place to visit. I’ve played the last couple of years and it’s obviously one that I want to be in the mix for.” In 2014, Coetzee claimed his maiden European Tour victory at the Joburg Open, and then followed it up in 2015 with his first Tshwane Open trophy at his home course Pretoria Country Club. He went on to defeat Thorbjørn Olesen in a play-off later that season to take the 2015 AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, but was side-lined by a surfing injury not long afterwards. After his second Tshwane title, he said: “A lot has happened since the last time I held that trophy. I broke my ankle and I kind of needed to show myself that I could win on Tour again and it's nice to come and do it again in front of the home crowd.” Tournament host Gary Player said: “When the top players from around the world commit to play early, it creates a domino effect that helps us attract a world-class field to Sun City. I am thrilled George will be back, and he is already having a terrific season. We look forward to adding more of the world’s best players to the Nedbank Golf Challenge.” Anthony Leeming, Chief Executive of Sun International added: “George is a fantastic addition to what is always a strong South African contingent in the Nedbank Golf Challenge, hosted by Gary Player. He is a proven European Tour winner and forms part of this current generation of South African golfers who grew up watching this tournament and who now want to make their own mark in this prestigious event. Branden Grace has started this process with his victory last year, and I’ve no doubt that a fit again George Coetzee will be just as keen to add ‘Africa’s Major’ to his growing list of titles.” An event steeped in history, the Nedbank Golf Challenge list of former champions features a who’s who of golfing legends. The late, great Seve Ballesteros, is a two-time champion having won back-to-back titles in 1983 and 1984, along with Ernie Els (1999, 2000 and 2002), Bernhard Langer (1985 and 1991), Colin Montgomerie (1996), Sir Nick Faldo (1994), Nick Price (1993, 1997 and 1998) and Ian Woosnam (1987). More recently, Sweden’s Alex Noren captured his first title in South Africa in 2016, along with 2016 Masters Champion Danny Willett in 2015, and European Ryder Cup Captain Thomas Bjørn in 2014. Tickets for the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player will be on sale soon with further information here.  
Jbe aims for second Sun win in as many yearsWhile admitting that he has not been playing well lately, Jbe’ Kruger is determined to claim his second victory on South African soil and says next week’s Sun City Challenge is the perfect opportunity. “I am not playing that well, honestly,” admits Kruger ahead of the trip to the Gary Player Country Club. “But, I am building up and things are coming together.” Kruger, a four-time Sunshine Tour winner, had never won on home soil before his victory at last year’s Sun Carnival City Challenge, a feat he intends to repeat next week. “It was amazing to win a Sun International event last year, especially one on my home course (Serengeti Wildlife and Golf Estate),” he says, “because I know that golf course backward. But, this is a new week and as I always say, if you don’t play to win tournaments, then you don’t have to come to play. I always play to win.” Kruger’s last two outings at this Gary Player-designed layout are a cause for optimism because apart from the fact that his only win at home came in a Sun International tournament, he has had good results in the North West. He tied eighth last year and was in a share of fifth the season prior while he missed the cut in 2015. It will not be easy for the two-time Zimbabwe Open champion as the demand of playing on three tours eventually does take its toll but Kruger is unfazed. “It’s not easy playing three tours,” he admits. “But, my objective is to keep my Sunshine Tour card and finish as high up as possible on the Order of Merit. So, prioritising is important because I play on three tours. But, we are all trying to make a name for ourselves internationally so it’s important to prioritise.” Kruger withdrew from the Mopani Redpath Zambia Open and missed the cut at the Lombard Insurance Classic at the Royal Swazi Spa. Those are the only events he’s taken part in on the Sunshine Tour this season and he will aim for a better result come Thursday, or better yet, a second Sun International win in as many years.  
Erik loving first season on European TourErik van Rooyen is enjoying his first season on the European Tour and it showed at the Italian Open where he shot a first round seven-under-par 65 to take fourth on the leaderboard at Gardagolf Country Club on Thursday. “Loving it,” he said of his graduation from the Challenge Tour last year. “It’s events like last week and this week makes you realise why we play this game. It’s absolutely fantastic. Great venue again this week. Loving every minute of it.” He was third in the top 15 that graduated from the Challenge Tour onto the European Tour. A victory in the 2017 Hainan Open and a share of third and fourth at NBO Golf Classic Grand Final and the Kazakhstan Open respectively helped him a great deal. Last week he finished tied 20th together with his fellow South African Jacques Kruyswijk and four other players in the BMW PGA Championship in England. Van Rooyen’s round in Italy saw him finishing two shots behind three overnight leaders, his countryman Richard Sterne, Robert Rock and Laurie Canter. His front nine which had one eagle on the seventh and three birdies on fourth, sixth and ninth was flawless while he started his back nine with a bogey and suffered another one on 17th. The 2017 Eye of Africa PGA champion said making the eagle was like a walk in the park for him. “Yeah, hit driver down the middle and think I had about 201 yards. Hit six-iron about six feet. Rolled it in. Pretty simple,” Van Rooyen’s solid round was a result of the careful play. “Very consistent. Hit a lot of fairways, a ton of greens, and obviously rolled in some putts. Putter is working. I've been working hard at it, and it's nice to see them go in,” he said.  
Sterne in trio tied for lead in ItalyFrom The European Tour Robert Rock, Laurie Canter and Richard Sterne made the most of the conditions at Gardagolf Country Club to share the lead after the first round of the Italian Open. The stunning layout on the shores of Lake Garda had seen heavy rain in the days leading up to the second Rolex Series event of the season, and the softened course opened the door for low scoring. Canter and Rock capitalised with rounds of 63 to set the target at eight under and after an hour and 19 minutes was lost in the afternoon due to storms in the area, it looked like none of the afternoon starters could catch them. Enter six-time European Tour winner Sterne, who carded a total of 10 birdies – including three to finish – to make it a three-way tie at the top. There was then a group of eight players with 22 European Tour wins between them at six under, made up of Englishmen Ross Fisher, Charlie Ford, Matt Wallace and Danny Willett, Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello, Dane Thorbjørn Olesen, Belgian Thomas Pieters and South African Erik van Rooyen. Canter is looking for his first European Tour title after coming through the Qualifying School the last three seasons, while Rock is seeking win number three at the event where he claimed his maiden victory seven years ago. “It was all pretty solid,” said Canter. “My iron play was nice. Obviously the greens are receptive so you can go at a few pins, even with your longer irons they are going to stop fast. “So I hit some really nice iron shots. I think I played the par fives well as you’d hope to. They are really good scoring opportunities. Then just solid for the rest of it, really, through the bag. I was really pleased.” Rock recovered from a bogey on the second with birdies on the fourth and sixth, an eagle on the seventh and a hat-trick of gains from the ninth. Canter also eagled the seventh after birdies on the first, fifth and sixth, and when he made another gain on the 10th, he too was six under. The 28-year-old birdied the 13th to hit the front on his own and Rock almost chipped in on the 15th to get back into a share of the lead. An approach to tap-in range on the 16th nudged Rock ahead but Canter birdied the same hole and they were the men to catch. “The course is soft and fairways are playing a bit wider because it’s just landing and stopping,” said Rock. “And on the greens you have to hole some putts. I holed some nice, solid birdie putts and holed a couple of bonus ones as well so that was pretty cool. “You remember your first win more than anything and for me, it took so long to get the first win, so it’s special. “But you also see the same people when you come back to a tournament and your name’s on the trophy and the boards. As I’ve only won two, I don’t get to experience that very much. It’s always good to see, just a reminder that you have done something good somewhere down the line.” South African Sterne got off to a fast start, birdieing the 11th, 12th, 13th and 15th before dropping a shot on the 17th. A hat-trick of birdies followed from the second and after a bogey on the fifth, he reeled off three more gains from the seventh. “It was lovely,” he said. “The course is playing nice, giving a lot of opportunities, so you’ve got to take them. I saw a lot of guys shoot quite low this morning. It was probably one of the best putting days I’ve had in many a year, so it was nice. “I haven’t done well in any of the Rolex Series, to be honest. It would be nice to put in a couple of solid rounds. It’s a long way to go, only day one. Hopefully I’ll put some solid rounds together.”  

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