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Van Rooyen: Trying to make Portugal really count

9th May 2017

Van Rooyen: Trying to make Portugal really count

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Erik van Rooyen has taken the confidence he gained when he won his first Sunshine Tour title in February at the Eye of Africa PGA Championship and that could be the driver of a European breakthrough at this week’s Open de Portugal.

The tournament at Morgado Golf Resort is a dual-ranking event for the first time in which the European Tour and Challenge Tour have joined forces.

It presents a golden opportunity for players looking to make their mark on the European Tour, and Van Rooyen is into the event on his Challenge Tour ranking. He joins other South Africans who can similarly take advantage of an event in which a good performance – or better still, a victory – can seal a regular spot on the bigger stage of the European Tour.

The other South Africans in the field this week are Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Zander Lombard, Justin Walters, Jaco Ahlers and Trevor Fisher Jnr – all easily into a tournament that is wide open given that the top European Players are in the US for the Players Championship this week.

In the past, competitors doing battle at dual-ranking tournaments have often taken full advantage of the winner’s exemption on offer – using their victory as a springboard to launch or rejuvenate their European Tour careers.

Darren Fichardt is one such player who rejuvenated his career in a tournament like that. He was a seasoned competitor when he won in Saint Omer.

Fichardt was already a two-time European Tour winner when he teed off in the 10th dual-ranking event to be played in France, but he had gone eight years without victory on the European Tour.

After three rounds in the 60s, the then 37-year-old went into the final round with a seemingly unassailable five-shot lead.

Despite a two over par closing round of 73, the experienced South African stayed in control and cruised to the third European Tour title of his career.

Rather than waiting another eight years for his next victory, a rejuvenated Fichardt was back in the winners’ circle after just another eight months, winning on home soil at the 2013 Africa Open.

Van Rooyen has started testing European waters on the Challenge Tour subsequent to his February win, and, after missing the cut in his first tournament in Kenya, finished in a share of 25th in the Turkish Airlines Challenge.

With that little extra experience, he can make a name for himself this week in Portugal.

With reporting from The European Tour

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