5th December 2018 | Sunshine Tour
Paisley upbeat about SA Open title defence
Defending champion Chris Paisley has a difficult time digesting that he has won the second-oldest open championship in the world, but it’s hitting home ahead of tomorrow’s South African Open Championship hosted by City of Joburg.
Paisley held off Branden Grace at Glendower in January to win the title, and he sets off on his title defence at Randpark Golf Club this week with Grace, 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and world number 44 Matt Wallace in the field.
“When I first arrived on Monday, it was quite quiet,” said Paisley. “So, it felt just like another tournament but as the week’s gone on, more people have mentioned the tournament on social media.
“I saw one of the preview videos about the history of the tournament and it gave me huge confidence. To see my name alongside some of the guys who have won like Gary Player and Ernie Els and all those South African legends and the European players too. It was kind of a surreal moment.”
Paisley’s game is getting back to the kind of shape which gave him the title in January, after suffering a bit of a mid-season lapse. “My game feels good,” he said. “It feels really solid and I am driving very nicely which is a big key for me. That was probably one of the biggest reasons I had that really good run in January, my driving was pretty good. I kind of slipped a little bit in the middle of the season, but it feels like it is back again. I had a good result at the Nedbank and on a tough course and I played solidly in Turkey and Dubai. I feel good.”
And if he feels good, he could be dangerous. “The way I went in January gave me a huge amount of self-belief and even in the times when I haven’t been playing well this year, that really kept my confidence up to a certain level whereas maybe in the years previous, when I didn’t have that wind behind me, my confidence maybe would have dipped a little more. I am trying to get better and I know when my form comes around, I can do the same thing again,” he said.
He will know that South African players will be coming for him, wanting to break back into the winner’s circle in their own open championship.
“Obviously it is the SA Open and the guys want to win it,” said Justin Harding, who currently tops the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit. “It is nice to have everybody here. The competition is going to be good. Not only because there is a bunch of players this week, but a bunch of good players. The crowds will come out and hopefully we can support our South African fans by lifting the trophy.”