12th April 2019 | Sunshine Tour
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!’