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Auto Draft 101Philip Eriksson missed the cut in last week’s tournament, and the extra day of practice he got on the three courses at Fancourt paid off on Sunday as he cruised to a three-stroke victory in the Dimension Data Pro-Am. The Swede carded a final-round of four-under-par 68 to pull clear of the pack in a tournament record-equalling 21-under-par, finishing with a birdie on the last hole of the Montagu course to be comfortably clear of runner-up Justin Walters. Dean Burmester was third a further shot back, and Jaco van Zyl was fourth. Defending champion Jaco Ahlers shared fifth with Merrick Bremner and Jbe’ Kruger. “I’m speechless, really,” said Eriksson in immediate reaction to his victory. “It feels like a dream come true. I’ve heard so much about this tournament though the years, even in Sweden. And even though it’s not a European Tour event or anything, it’s such a big event that a lot of people come here just to play this tournament. So playing here for the first time and winning feels unbelievable.” It was a week during which he hardly put a foot wrong, making just three bogeys the whole week with rounds of 66 to open with on Montagu, 67 on Outeniqua and 67 on The Links ahead of his final round on Montagu. Then, paired with a resurgent Van Zyl, with whom he shared the 54-hole lead, he started with a birdie, and then parred his way to the turn. Van Zyl, by contrast, made three birdies and two bogeys through the first nine as the two headed for home all tied up. After the turn, Van Zyl faltered with four more bogeys and just two birdies to counter them, while Eriksson put his foot on the accelerator and made four birdies and just a single birdie. “It wasn’t as enjoyable playing today as you might think,” said Eriksson. “Jaco played so well. He was firing at the pins, which were tucked in behind the bunkers and behind the water hazards. He just went straight at them all the time. “I played more defensively, or strategically. I just tried to get my four- or five-metre putts and then go for the easier holes. “But it was tough out there, windy as well. I didn’t really enjoy it until I hit the ball onto the 18th green. Then I felt like it should be fun. The walk onto the 18th was so cool with the people cheering and everything. Just playing with crowds gives me a lot of energy.” It was clearly enough energy to get in some extra preparation, even though it was done in conditions very different to the warm weather during the tournament. “I couldn’t imagine while I was practicing that I could go this low,” he said. “It was raining and cold and misty. But with nice temperatures and good weather, it was so much easier than I thought.” And he adds his name to a trophy that includes the names of major championship winners Nick Price, Darren Clarke, Retief Goosen, Trevor Immelman and Louis Oosthuizen.  
Van Zyl – I was going to take a golf sabbaticalJaco van Zyl was a week away from taking a step back from the game. And then he found himself in a share of the lead going into the final round of the Dimension Data Po-Am Van Zyl carded a third-round three-under-par 69 on Montagu to share the 54-hole lead at 17-under with Swede Philip Eriksson, and is about to tee-off in search of his first Sunshine Tour title since his February 2016 victory in the Eye of Africa PGA Championship. Should he win, it would be his 15th title in a glittering career. “It’s amazing to be in this position after the injury issues,” he said after not playing for the whole of the 2017-18 Sunshine Tour season. “But it’s not just the injuries. I’ve been back since August last year. I got off to a nice start, with a bit of a run in Europe at the end of last year. But from the beginning of this year, it’s really been a struggle. “Although I’m injury-free, emotionally I started taking strain and doubting myself, whether I had enough to play this game anymore. A week ago, I was going to take a golf sabbatical. It really got to me. But I knuckled down last week, really worked hard. So this performance is just great for the confidence. It’s given me a little bit of courage and it’s really nice to be in this position. “When you’re in a state like that, you’ve basically got two choices. You can either lie down – and most people will understand and accept that – or you can get up and try and face the challenge. If you think about it long enough and hard enough, you realise that you’ve been doing it long enough and that the game’s still there. Maybe the best way to get through a slump is to put your head down and work harder than you’ve ever worked before. With time, it should come right.” It seems to have come right with a vengeance at Fancourt this week. He opened with a seven-under 65 on Outeniqua with eight birdies on his card, followed it with a bogey-free seven-under 66 on The Links and then came his battling three-under 69 on Montagu. He knows better than to expect miracles in the final round. “With my experience, I know if things go well that I can play nicely,” he said. “The thing with winning tournaments is you’ve got to put four rounds together. There’s no good to be gained putting three rounds together and then falling out the bus in one. I hope the third round was my little bit of a slump and I can pick up a few in the final round.” If he picks up those few, he’ll be a happy man. “I didn’t expect to be in this position this week, but it really is good to be here,” he said.  
Auto Draft 100Swede Philip Eriksson shrugged off two consecutive bogeys on Saturday on his way to a six-under-par 67 on The Links at Fancourt as he finished the third round of the Dimension Data Pro-Am in a share of the lead. He made bogey on 14 and 15 in a round which had reached eight-under-par through 12 on the challenging layout. He shares the 54-hole lead with Jaco van Zyl after the players have played a round on each of the three Fancourt courses – The Links, Montagu and Outeniqua. The final round will be played at Montagu. “Six-under is always a really good score, but I was eight-under through 13, so I was not really that happy with the finishing holes,” said Eriksson. “But you take what you get.” And what he got was a solid addition to his opening rounds of 66 on Montagu and 67 on Outeniqua, despite the disappointment of the finish. “With the two bogeys, I just missed one tee shot,” he said. “It went just off the fairway into a bunker and it plugged just in the lip there. I couldn’t really do much. I missed a short putt for par after I hit a good wedge shot there. Then I three-putted the next hole after a good wedge shot which was just too long really. Then I missed two birdie putts coming down the stretch. “It’s tough when you’re eight-under to keep pushing to go 10 or 12-under. I wouldn’t really say I tried to push myself too hard. I hit some really good shots down the stretch. There were two iron shots I wasn’t really happy with, but other than that, I hit pretty much everything pretty solid today. I barely missed a shot today. “I’m happy with all parts of my game, really. I’m putting solidly – I hit it on the right line and everything. I didn’t make that many long putts, but there were a couple of good ones from two or three metres. My driver is actually very long this week, and that’s pretty sweet. I wasn’t planning to go for the par-fives this week, but I’ve been hitting it so far and on the fairways, I kind of had to go for them. “I don’t know what is the difference with the driver. The practice round was just terrible – I was hitting the driver everywhere. But I suppose it was raining and a bit colder then, so maybe it was just the good weather that helped me.” Van Zyl, who has rounds of 65-66-69, with his 69 coming on Montagu, is holding it together in a week which marks a return to form after a difficult return from a long period off for injury. “My scores are trending in the wrong direction,” he laughed. “But I’m playing nicely. It was a little scruffy towards the end today, but Montagu is really a good challenge. I gave myself chances, but no real close opportunities.” Van Zyl and Eriksson have a two-stroke edge over Jbe’ Kruger, with Riekus Nortje and Dean Burmester lurking dangerously just one shot further back. All of the top five except Eriksson played the third round on Montagu, so they have a little momentum on that course going into the final round. But that’s not bothering the Swede. “Montagu is a really good course,” he said. “I like all three of them, but Montagu is a really strategic one. You don’t need to hit driver that much. I didn’t hit it that much in my first round, so I’m probably just going to stick with the same game-plan and just make the same number of birdies I’ve been making. If I play the way I’ve been playing, I won’t shoot over par. “But it’s the final round and you’ve got to keep your mind right and just close the deal.”  
Van Zyl eases into lead with superb round at The LinksIt looked as if the comeback from the injury woes was complete for Jaco van Zyl on Friday as he played his way serenely to the second-round lead of the Dimension Data Pro-Am with a seven-under-par 66 at The Links at Fancourt. Together with his opening seven-under on Outeniqua the day before, he moved to 14-under, two clear of Justin Walters. The players play one round on each of The Links, Outeniqua and Montagu ahead of the cut after the third round and the final round on the challenging Montagu. For the 14-time winner on the Sunshine Tour, it’s just a relief to be back in contention. “It’s amazing to be back in this position again,” he said. “It’s been a long, hard road. So, for this first time in a long time, there’s not much by way of expectations. I’m just enjoying myself being here.” It was a bogey-free journey around the par-73 layout of The Links for Van Zyl. “I got off to a nice start and then we turned into the wind on seven, eight and nine,” he said. “It was one of those turning points in a round. If you let one or two slip there, you’re kind of back to square one. I managed to make three good pars there. On the back nine, it was just about trying to grab every opportunity.” And with the shape his game is in this week, there were plenty of opportunities. “I’ve been putting really nicely,” he said. “I’ve also been solid off the tee – I think I’ve missed three fairways in two days. I’ve made just one bogey. I’m not missing fairways and I’m not missing greens and that means I’m having opportunities the whole time. “That’s the tough beast for the week. On Outeniqua, you need to try and get it around and score well, which I managed to do, and seven-under-par around The Links is just a huge bonus. I’m definitely going to grab it and run.” Walters carded a four-under 69 on The Links in a round which included a bogey on the 13th. That, together with his opening eight-under on Outeniqua, leaves him well placed to keep in touch with Van Zyl as they both move to Montagu for the third round. A further shot back were Jbe’ Kruger and Philip Eriksson of Sweden. Kruger signed for a five-under 68 on The Links, while Erkisson made his five-under 67 on Outeniqua. Grouped on 10-under, within striking distance, was a trio which included defending champion Jaco Ahlers, who made the most of good conditions on The Links with a six-under 67. The other two players two back from Van Zyl were first-round leader Riekus Nortje and Dean Burmester. It’s a chasing pack that should have Van Zyl looking over his shoulder, but he’s just having too much fun being back in contention. “We’ve had two absolutely stunning days and on two golf courses that are in great nick,” he said. “I know Montagu is also good and the forecast looks good for the next two days as well. So I’ll just stay patient and try and get things moving in the right direction.”  
Walters just one back at FancourtBuried beneath the brilliance of the leader’s opening nine-under-par on Thursday was the equally superb first-round 64 from Justin Walters in the Dimension Data Pro-Am being played on all three courses at Fancourt. He found himself one off the lead despite a double-bogey five on the par-three fourth at Outeniqua. He is still to play a round on each of The Links and Montagu ahead of the cut after the third round, after which the final round will be played on the testing Montagu layout. “It was lovely to make eight birdies and an eagle!” he said “I got off to a fast start and made a few putts – the putter was definitely working today. I really saw the lines on the greens and started it on them, and they went in – it was lovely. “When you get on a roll like that, you get a few clubs where the yardages match up, so it’s not a half-shot or fiddly shot. You can just hit normal shots and I hit a lot of normal, full stock shots today, and I was able to hit them reasonably close and make them. You get into a rhythm and a roll. I also had a good group of guys I was playing with – the amateurs and the pro – and we were laughing all the way around, and that probably helped a lot too. “I played Cape Town last week and I didn’t drive it particularly well. Today, I was really conscious of that and I drove the ball really well and I was really happy with that. When I drive it well, I’m able to attack pins and when I can do that, I can make putts. It all kind of fell together today. The more you can narrow your focus when driving, the better. I try and hit to a certain part of the fairway, and if I just miss that, it’s still in the fairway. A lot of times today, I actually hit my spots quite nicely.” His second round will be on the testing layout at The Links, a par-73 challenge that can provide the key to winning the tournament. “I think you’ve got to play The Links quite well,” he said. “You want to score well where I played today on Outeniqua, and then if you can shoot anything under par on The Links, you can be quite happy. The greens are quite firm on Montagu, so if I can get the job done on The Links tomorrow, I won’t be too far away going onto Montagu.”  
Bruiners will give his best in battle to keep cardHeinrich Bruiners needs to get into the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit’s top 100 if he is to retain his card for next season. At the Dimension Data Pro-Am, he said he is optimistic that he can get that right. He’s currently in 106th position, and he has three more events – including this week at Fancourt – to get the job done, and maybe even get into the season-ending Tour Championship. “I had a good season on the Big Easy Tour and, obviously, I had a bad year on the Sunshine Tour and now I’m trying to keep my card again,” he reflected on the season. “There are so many positives. I feel my game is getting close to winning again, honestly. It is a bold statement to make, but with the form that I have shown and the hard work that I have put in, I think it is very close again.” The 2013 Vodacom Origins of Golf Euphoria champion believes he can turn things around in any week before the season ends. “I just need to stay patient and not get ahead of myself. I am lying in the middle of the pack and I’m trying to keep my card, but it can change in one week. Hopefully that will happen. “If I feel I give my best, that will be good enough and I can live with that. If I give everything and don’t keep my card, it doesn’t matter. I will get up again and obviously take the necessary steps. As long as I give my best, that’s all I can do at the end of the day,” he said. The 31-year-old sot a good opening round of two-under-par 71 at the Dimension Data Pro-Am at The Links at Fancourt on Thursday. He was seven shots off the lead. The tournament is played on three courses – Outeniqua, The Links at Fancourt and Montagu. Players play a round on each of the courses ahead of the cut, and the final round will be played at Montagu on Sunday. “I think my game is heading in the right direction. After this event we have got the Team Championship, and then the Limpopo Championship which we are playing at Euphoria, my favourite course. I am looking forward to that. I am trying to build up to perform my best in that week. I am going to play my best and focus this week, obviously. It is not going to be easy, but I am going to try and stay patient.” Bruiners has made seven cuts out of 19 starts this season was happy to start well. “Obviously, you always get some nerves and butterflies when you start an event like this, but at the end of the day I enjoy feeling that way. It is weird. For some reason, I think I need to fight the nerves.” The member of Gary Player Class of 2019 also has two decades of experience at Fancourt. “I am still a member here and I have been part of Fancourt for the past almost 20 years. I know this course very well. When Gary Player opened The Links, I was part of the development team and we were actually part of the opening function. I was here from the day the course was opened. So, I know all the changes and everything that happened on this course.” A good round on Montagu in the second round of the Dimension Data Pro-Am will go a long way to helping Bruiners retain his card.  
Nortje’s Valentine’s Day 63 leads Dimension Data Pro-AmRiekus Nortje won the heart of the Outeniqua course at Fancourt on Valentine’s Day with a flawless nine-under-par 63 to ease into a one-stroke lead in first round of the Dimension Data Pro-Am. He made seven birdies and an eagle to put himself a shot clear of Justin Walters and another ahead of Jaco van Zyl, who also both completed their opening rounds on Outeniqua. The players play a round on each of Outeniqua, The Links at Fancourt and Montagu ahead of the cut, and final round action will be over Montagu on Sunday. For such a successful courtship, Nortje’s technique had an element of hit-and-miss about it. “My game’s been feeling quite good the last little while, but I just couldn’t get everything together,” he said. “There is always some little aspect that is off, so today I just decided to hit and what happens will happen.” The relaxed approach paid off immediately. “I thought about hitting four-iron off the tee on one,” he said. “I decided against it and took driver. I was probably about 30 yards short of the green, hit a great pitch to about four or five feet and made the putt. I hit the green in two on the second and I holed quite a long putt. That was already a great start. I made another long putt for birdie on the third. It was a dream start.” It’s easy to let such a good start slip away, but Nortje had just the right amount of persuasive power to keep things going. “You can get ahead of yourself very quickly with a start like that, so I just tried to take it one shot at a time and that worked really well for me,” he said. “I had a tough par-three after the first three holes. I hit a solid shot there, made a solid two-putt and then I hit a great second on the fifth. So that kind of kept the momentum going, but I did have to keep myself calm after the fast start.” Nortje, who has won just once on the Sunshine Tour, in the 2017 Mopani Redpath Zambia Open in Kitwe, has had a rough time of it in the 2018-19 season, making just five cuts with a best finish of a share of seventh back in June last year at Sun City. He’s only too aware of what this fast start means for him this week. “It was very important to get a good start on Outeniqua,” he said. “Montagu is playing tough at the moment, with the greens a little bit firmer, but they’re new greens. There have been some low scores there, so the scores are out there. You’ve just got to put your head down and grind.” The best round on Montagu came from England’s Toby Tree with his six-under-par 66. “I’m very pleased with that round,” he said. “I missed the cut by one in each of the last two weeks. I’ve been working hard after being injured at the end of last year. I’ve been playing alright, just not holing any putts. I got off to a frustrating start, but I just hung in there and got rewarded at the end. “The greens are firm on Montagu. Luckily, I drove it well – I only missed one fairway all day, and the one I did miss made it difficult to keep on the green because they were so firm.” Tree’s round at Montagu was matched by Sweden’s Philip Eriksson. At the challenging par-73 Links at Fancourt, Ireland’s Neil O’Briain carded a bogey-free six-under-par 67. “They’re all tough golf courses, but we were lucky on The Links today because the wind wasn’t very strong,” he said. “I was struggling with the driver in the practice round, so I spent a good hour-and-a-half on it last night and it really paid off. I didn’t really hole a lot of putts. I hit a couple of really nice shots and then took advantage of the par-fives, and the longest putt I had for par was about a foot. That makes it a lot easier.” They’re all going to overhaul Nortje, who is staying at home with his parents this week and who seems to have a recipe which will possibly also seduce the other courses. “I made a couple of really solid putts, but I feel I still left one or two out there that I could have made, or done a little better. But overall, everything was pretty good. My tee shots could have improved a little, but my irons and wedges were pretty good,” he said.  
Dimension Data Pro-Am: What’s whatDimension Data Pro-Am: What’s what Our last visit to the magnificent Fancourt Golf Estate, Jaco Ahlers claimed a three-stroke victory over Jean-Paul Strydom. This year’s event will be played on all three courses – Montagu, Outeniqua and the Links at Fancourt – from February 14 to 17. The format: 156 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 and The Links at Fancourt.  The final round will be played on Montagu. 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. For the pro-am, 156 Professionals and 156 amateurs make up the field. Players drawn together in one team stay together for the duration of the tournament. The format is Betterball Medal, the best nett score on each hole to count. Each team will play one round on the Montagu, Outeniqua and The Links.  On conclusion of the third round there will be a cut to the leading 25 team scores. All teams making the 54-hole cut will contest the final round to be played on Montagu. Defending champion: Jaco Ahlers is the defending champion after he defeated Jean-Paul Strydom by three shots after he finished on 20-under-par 269. The Courses: The Links at Fancourt: 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 grasses: Kentucky Blue, Rye, Fescue and Bent, with the greens a dominant Bent. Outeniqua: This course provides for an easier game than its counterpart, 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 Bent grass 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. Montagu, 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: Nobody can dispute Zander Lombard’s form right now. In the six Sunshine Tour tournaments he has played this season since reclaiming his European Tour card, Lombard has been red hot. It all started with his maiden title at the Vodacom Origins of Golf at Zebula. He backed that up with a fourth-place finish at the final event of that series at Pinnacle Point. One would have thought missing the cut at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open would dampen his resolve, yet, on the contrary, it looks as though that that result injected him with a new sense of confidence. A top-15 finish at the world’s second oldest golf championship, the South African Open hosted by the City of Joburg, was soon followed by a third-place finish at the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek. In all these events, there was always a sense among media and pundits that Lombard was going to win one of them soon, as his game just got better and better. Another solid week for him in Cape Town ended in disappointment as he watched Follett-Smith walk away as the victor. Nevertheless, the fact that he has looked threatening in all but one of his six tournaments on the local circuit shows that he is ready to add a second piece of silverware to his budding cupboard. Sentimental pick: Strydom makes a return to Fancourt after a solid week in Cape Town where he narrowly lost out to Zimbabwe’s Benjamin Follett-Smith. His rounds of 69, 67, 70 and 66 were solid enough to deliver him his maiden Sunshine Tour title, but Ahlers’ experience came to the fore as his third and fourth round scores of 66 and 64 proved unassailable. At the RAM Cape Town Open last week, Strydom, again, showed his hunger for a title and despite a fourth-round 74 which played a bit-part in his demise, he has shown he is ready to grace the winner’s circle at any moment. While his best results for the season have come from Cape Town, Eye of Africa PGA Championship (17th), Alfred Dunhill (18th) and the Wild Coast where he came 18th, he has proven to be a strong competitor and counting him out this week might prove dangerous. The bolter: Thriston Lawrence reclaimed his Sunshine Tour playing card via the gruelling route of qualifying school and has had a season of mixed results since then. A top-10 finish at the Royal Swazi Challenge gave him a much-needed confidence booster, and that was soon followed by a top-five finish at the Vodacom Origins of Gold at Zebula. A couple of missed cuts here and there threatened his Order of Merit standings but he fought admirably to climb up to the 58th he currently occupies. That was largely thanks to the results he got at the Eye of Africa PGA Championship where he came fourth, the closest he’s come to winning a Sunshine Tour event in his young career. The following week, Lawrence finished eighth at the RAM Cape Town Open to ride the previous week’s momentum. The Big Easy #15 win he has under his belt should serve as a motivator for the rest of the season and playing one of the gems of South African golf this week, Fancourt Golf Estates, Lawrence should be relishing his chances.  
Ahlers hoping omens point to Dimension Data defenceLast year ahead of the Dimension Data Pro-Am, Jaco Ahlers managed to lose out in Kingswood Golf Estate’s weekly meat competition. This year, he’s managed to repeat the feat, so he’s taking that as a good omen ahead of his title defence at Fancourt. The R5.05-million tournament tees off on The Links at Fancourt, Outeniqua and Montagu on Thursday, with professionals playing a round on each of the three courses ahead of the cut and the final round on Montagu. The pros will play for R4.75-million, and the pro-am section of the tournament carries a further R300,000 in prize money. Last year, Ahlers, who lives in George, won by three shots from Jean-Paul Strydom, and also took the pro-am title with his partner, cricketing superstar Jacques Kallis. “Last year, Vaughn Groenewald pipped me at the meat comp,” laughed Ahlers, “and I’m not featuring at all this week at Kingswood, so maybe I should take that as a sign.” It’s an event that Ahlers loved winning last year, and he will throw everything into trying to defend his title. “It’s always good to be able to play in front of friends and family,” he said of his victory which was greeted with much local pleasure.” Of course, being local gives him a little bit of an advantage in a tournament that is played over three different courses. “I’m very comfortable at Fancourt,” he said. “I play the courses a lot, and I’ve got to know them really well. There have been changes at Montagu, and I’m already comfortable with those, whereas players from outside of George might battle to adapt to them quickly.” Added to that familiarity, Ahlers’ own game has been trending in the right direction, with a share of eighth in the Eye of Africa PGA Championship at the end of January, and a share of fifth in the RAM Cape Town Open last week. “I’ve made a few changes in the ‘team’ department,” said Ahlers. “I’ve been working with Peter Berman, who also looks after Branden Grace. I’ve made significant changes, and it’s been getting there over the last four weeks.” For his win last year, Ahlers finished with an emphatic eight-under 64 to pull clear. It was the best score of the final round, and perhaps indicative of how he can play when things start rolling for him. Now, there’s just that pesky meat comp! Maybe next year…  
Follett-Smith wins the RAM Cape Town Open

Follett-Smith wins the RAM Cape Town Open

Zimbabwean Benjamin Follett-Smith won his maiden Sunshine Tour title when he claimed a two-shot victory over Zander Lombard and Jean-Paul Strydom on a total of 13-under-par 275 at the RAM Cape Town Open on Sunday. Still in his rookie season on Tour, Follett-Smith admitted that he came into the final aiming for a top-10 finish but got more than he’d expected at Royal Cape. “I am happy to be able to show that I can win,” Follett-Smith said. “It is a great thing for me, at least, and not to prove anything to anyone else that I can win. I will be able to establish myself on Tour and be able to say I am actually worthy of being here. I came out here today thinking that I just need to finish in the top-10 so that I can get into next week at the Dimension Data Pro AM so I won’t have to play pre-qualifiers next week. It is really great for me to win this at this stage of my career.” On a day when the wind was up and swirling for most of the time, it looked as though either of Lombard, Strydom or Peter Karmis would go on to win at Royal Cape, but a brilliant back nine catapulted the young Zimbabwean to the top spot. He opened his round with a bogey and four pars later, made his first birdie. At the turn, he made another par as the wind made things difficult but from there on, there was no stopping him. He made three consecutive birdies from the 11th through to the 13th before taking a par on the 14th. Another three birdies on the trot got onto his card as he carded a bogey-free 30 on the homeward stretch. “I played the back nine so well,” he noted. “My putter was hot and everything. I could read the lines and everything was just going well for me. It all started on the par-five eleven, where I made a birdie. I made a good up-and-down, which was nice. I made a good putt there and two more on 12th and 13th then made a par. After that I made three birdies and the last hole I was driving, I hit it on the left, it actually bounced when it hit the flag and I had to up-and-down.” Tied for second on 11-under-par, Lombard and Strydom will feel they were in with a real chance at winning but when it’s not your week, it’s not your week. Follett-Smith will now look forward to the rest of the season with a degree of confidence after his display at the oldest golf club in the country.    
Upward trajectory for LombardUpward trajectory for Lombard While it is still early in the year to fairly judge, it seems Zander Lombard is slowly returning to the form which had pundits label him the next big golf star after he’d burst on to the scene with that second-place finish to Haydn Porteous at the 2015 Joburg Open. Indifferent results on the European Tour characterised his young career, and following yet another not-so-solid season last year, Lombard found himself having to fight for his playing card on that tour’s qualifying school. Of the 29 tournaments he played there, he was able to make the cut only seven times, a poor return for his liking. He retained his card in a brilliant fashion, though, as he went to finish second in the final stage at Lumine. His last five European Tour events, however, have delivered him two top 20 finishes while missing the cut once. He has played five tournaments on the Sunshine Tour – barring the ongoing RAM Cape Town Open where he is a shot behind the lead in the final round – and boasts a win, two top 10 finishes and a top 15 while missing one cut. He is in contention at Royal Cape, trailing JP Strydom by a single shot in the final round, and he is aware of his recent struggles, despite a solid showing whenever he’s come home this season. “It has been a real grinding year,” he said after his third-round 69 in Cape Town. “As you know, my results have not been up to scratch but I did not think too much of it, because I knew that I was working on the right stuff. It is nice when it kicks in sometimes and I have a great team behind me. It is not that I started practising yesterday. This is all the year’s work, plus I have got a lovely girlfriend, lovely family and amazing coaches who support me.” For many professionals, including Lombard, and as it is expected at the oldest golf club in the country, the combination of swirling wind and the tight tree-lined fairways at Royal Cape proved to be a real test this week. “It was a battle, it took all my energy, my mind and power,” he said after round three. “I am definitely going for a nap after this. It was just tough. It is one of those rounds that you want to grind it out. I tried to hit the fairways and the greens. I was looking for birdies out there, but I only managed to find few and the eagle on eleventh.” He gave a good account of himself and in a good position on day four in Cape Town, Lombard has every opportunity to claim his second Sunshine Tour title.
Strydom reclaims top spot at Royal CapeStrydom reclaims top spot at Royal Cape Jean-Paul Strydom returned to the summit of the leaderboard in round three of the RAM Cape Town Open after he signed for three-under 69 to total 13-under-par and take a slender one-stroke lead into the final round at Royal Cape. On a day when the wind picked up quite early on, it was always going to be a laborious effort to shoot a low score at the wind-ravaged Royal Cape. The struggle was obvious from the first glance as Strydom’s only birdies of the front nine – on the second and fifth holes – were quickly undone by the same number of bogeys on the third and ninth holes. He seemed to have found something on the homeward stretch as he went birdie-eagle-par from the 10th through to the 12th hole, before picking up another birdie on 13. Back-to-back bogeys, thereafter, threatened to derail his round but he bounced back solidly, making further gains on the 16th before closing his round with pars on the 17th and the last holes. “It wasn’t easy out there,” Strydom noted, “I mean, the wind; we knew it was going to blow today and probably tomorrow as well. But the game plan is to just keep it in play, hit the greens and hopefully, make a couple of putts. “It’s a tough downwind, tough to try and stop the ball on the greens and stuff like that, but it was good. But it’s unbelievable to be leading with one round to go. I just hope I can finish the job because I have been in this situation before so I hope to take that experience to tomorrow.” Zander Lombard lurks dangerously behind him, though, with just a single stroke separating the two players. Lombard also carded a 69 while overnight leader, Peter Karmis, Zambia’s Madalitso Muthiya and Thriston Lawrence share the third spot on 10-under-par for the tournament. Michael Palmer and Andrew Curlewis occupy the sixth spot on a total of nine-under with England’s Ross McGowan, 2017 champion Jacques Kruyswijk, Lyle Rowe, Daniel van Tonder, Justin Walters and Richard Bland share the eighth spot. If the weather persists tomorrow, we are guaranteed an exciting finish to this, the seventh edition of the RAM Cape Town Open at Royal Cape.

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