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12th May 2018 | Sunshine Tour

Flawless Harding pulls off Swazi triumph

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Justin Harding carded a bogey-free nine-under-par 63 on Saturday to pull off his sixth Sunshine Tour victory when he squeaked home in the Investec Royal Swazi Open by one point.

It took a double-bogey by tournament leader Lyle Rowe on the last to let Harding through the door in a tournament decided by a Modified Stableford scoring system in which five points were awarded for an eagle, two for a birdie, none for a par, minus one for a bogey and minus three for a double or worse.

“Bogey-free today was key,” said Harding. “I pride myself on thinking clearly out there. I’m a naturally aggressive player as everyone knows. Keeping bogeys off the card is important because they just kill momentum, and in my opinion, golf is all about momentum, and if you can hold it for as long as possible, then you can post the scores that you need to. I seem to be doing a better job of that lately, and the win is proof of that.”

He made his first birdie in the final round on the second, and then he reeled off four in succession from the fifth to the eighth to put himself firmly in the frame for the win. Four more birdies on the homeward nine saw him to 47 points for the tournament, with Rowe playing in the group behind him and two points clear.

The leader pushed his tee-shot on the par-three 18th and had to try and hit a recovery shot from the deep rough below the green close enough to salvage par – or, at worst just a bogey. He didn’t manage and made double.

“I feel sorry for Lyle. Nobody wants to finish that way, especially when you’re leading,” said Harding. “I’ll have a beer with him later and we’ll talk some nonsense together. He’ll win again soon enough.”

For Harding, the victory came as a reward for some great form at the start of 2018: He finished third in the Eye of Africa PGA Championship and the Tour Championship, and second in last month’s Mopani Redpath Open in Zambia.

“I have been knocking on the door,” he said. “I have been playing well, and I’ve been reasonably frustrated because I have been there or thereabouts. I let it slip a little at the Tour Championships a couple of months ago, but I have been putting myself in a position to win more regularly than I have been in the past.”

Behind Harding and Rowe, Alex Haindl and third-round leader shared third place with totals of 45 points, with Andre Nel fifth and Oliver Bekker sixth.

Harding jumped to the top of the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit with his win, after four tournaments in the 2018-19 season completed.

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