10th January 2019 | Sunshine Tour
Order of Merit race heating up
Order of Merit race heating up
The final stretch of the season is always an exhilarating affair with interesting developments on both the upper and lower ends of the Order of Merit standings, making the end of any season an exciting prospect for players and fans.
For a long period last season, it looked like Oliver Bekker was going to win it in what was a trophy-laden season where he won three times. It was not to be. Despite playing fewer events than Bekker on the Sunshine Tour, George Coetzee’s Tshwane Open victory catapulted him to the summit as he claimed his maiden Order of Merit.
In an almost similar situation to that of Bekker’s, Justin Harding’s back-to-back victories in eSwatini earlier in the season gave him a head-start. Three top-fives and a top 10 aided his quest as he went on to occupy the top spot while a similar trend of results ensued for him on the Asian Tour where he had a debut season many can only dream of.
The chase for the Order of Merit crown, however, is still very open and while it is Louis Oosthuizen who leads, winning the Order of Merit is almost out of his hands, given that he’s only played two events on the Sunshine Tour this season – the South African Open hosted by the City of Joburg and the Alfred Dunhill Championship. He is R1.5-million clear of Zander Lombard but will need to play at least four of the remaining events and finish well there, as only a player who has played a minimum of six tournaments is eligible to win. That is unlikely.
Lombard, on the other hand, has played five tournaments and won one and if he, too, plays a couple more from the six remaining tournaments, he has every opportunity to topple Oosthuizen. There are three R2-million events still coming (Eye of Africa PGA Championship, Cape Town Open and Tour Championship) while both the new Limpopo Challenge and the Team Championship boast R1.5-million in prize money. The biggest among the remaining tournaments is the Dimension Data Pro-Am which has a purse of R5-million.
Harding, provided he plays in at least some of the remaining events, also has a chance of adding to his two titles this season and possibly claim his maiden Order of Merit title. He is R1.9-million off Oosthuizen but the opportunity is there for him and whether he decides to go for it will be upon him.
Depending on whether Oosthuizen, Lombard and Harding play and how well they do in the remaining tournaments of the season, Bryce Easton (fourth) and Neil Schietekat (fifth) also have a chance to clinch the Order of Merit title, if they play and do well in the remaining events. Easton has played eight events on the Sunshine Tour this season, which include his win in Zimbabwe, and is thus eligible to win while Schietekat’s resurgent form delivered him two titles this season.
Whatever the predictions and calculations, there’s still some way to go before the Order of Merit is wrapped up and the only thing everybody is certain about is that things are about to get really exciting on either end of the Order of Merit standings.