Jaco van Zyl has been playing his golf largely out of the limelight despite finishing in the top 10 of the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit for the last four years. But that could change if he wins the Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington on Sunday.
Van Zyl shot an outstanding five-under-par 67 on Saturday to move to 14-under-par and a tie for third place, just five out from the leading mark set by Richard Sterne and Trevor Fisher Jnr.
The 33-year-old member of Dainfern Golf Club almost had the distinction of starting and ending his round with an eagle. Van Zyl began the day with a three on the par-five first hole and then watched in disbelief as his 18-foot eagle putt on the last just lipped out.
“A foot from the hole, the ball just started to go right, but I thought enough of it would still be over the hole to go in,” Van Zyl mused after his round.
But by then he had become used to the ebbs and flows of his round on the East Course, considered to be the tougher of the two at Royal Joburg and solely used for the weekend.
“The first hole is obviously one you want to capitalise on being a par-five, but then on two, three and four you’re just hanging on. Six you can capitalise again on and although things went slow between nine and 15, I had a nice finish,” Van Zyl said.
The 2000 SA Amateur champion felt he had “kind of a chance” of winning on Sunday but conceded that Sterne and Fisher had the tournament under their control.
“I’ll really need a good one tomorrow and I must get a quick start,” Van Zyl said.
While the Lonehill resident says he feels most comfortable at home -“travelling really gets to you” – he will be heading over to Europe once again in April.
Van Zyl, despite seldom being mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Charl Schwartzel, George Coetzee, Richard Sterne and Thomas Aiken, has been able to shine over the last two years on the European Tour, comfortably retaining his card with 50th and 64th place finishes on the order of merit.
But he would dearly love to add a European Tour title to his collection of 10 Sunshine Tour wins.
“My first goal is to retain my card because I try not to lose perspective of how quickly things can go sour in this game. I want to stay modest, learn how to crawl before I try to walk and then run.
“My second goal is to make the Race to Dubai final, but winning a European Tour event has been on my mind for a while, I’ve had a couple of chances and I’d obviously really like to finish one off,” Van Zyl said.