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Ken Borland


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Keeping aggressive attitude leads to untroubled win for Shubhankar 0

Posted on December 14, 2017 by Ken

 

Shubhankar Sharma, the winner of the weather-disrupted Joburg Open at Randpark Golf Club on Monday, said he worked hard on keeping an aggressive attitude on the course and, as a consequence, the rising Indian star never looked in trouble as he sealed a three-shot victory on 23-under-par.

The tri-sanctioned tournament had to be completed on Monday morning due to the fourth afternoon being almost entirely washed out, and it made for an anxious wait for Shubhankar, who led by four shots overnight.

“I obviously did not sleep last night, I woke up four times, every couple of hours, because it was raining so hard. There were a lot of nerves beforehand, absolutely, because if you are chasing then you have nothing to lose, but if you are leading then you can only maintain that.

“But I was really calm once I got going, I just stuck to my game-plan and kept saying to myself to be aggressive, I never wanted to defend my lead. I set myself a target of finishing 25-under, but 23-under will do. I just kept imagining that I was three shots back,” Shubhankar said after his first victory outside of India.

As impeccable as his golf was – the accuracy of Shubhankar’s driving was particularly impressive – the standout feature of the 21-year-old’s tournament was his composure and he obviously has a very good head on his shoulders, showing maturity beyond his years.

While having one of the hottest putters in the 240-man field obviously helped a great deal in accumulating 26 birdies over the week, the absence of bogeys in his last three rounds is what pleased Shubhankar most.

“I hit the ball good and putted very well, but the up-and-downs I made the whole week were very crucial. Those par-saves get your round going and I made vital pars on 10, 13 and 15 today. Not having any bogeys was one of my main objectives today and not dropping any shots over the last three days is what makes me most happy, that’s good golf and the best part of my win,” he said.

Shubhankar resumed his round on the eighth hole on Monday and the looming presence of South African Erik van Rooyen meant he could not relax, even after birdieing the par-four ninth hole from 25 feet.

Van Rooyen shot a brilliant 66 to finish second, but Shubhankar notched pars all the way home to ensure he did not provide a back door for the chaser to slip through.

Van Rooyen said he was “really proud” of his effort but “I just could not squeeze any more birdies the way I wanted to”.

Fellow South African Shaun Norris also had plenty of reasons to smile as he roared through the field with a 65 to finish tied for third with Finland’s Tapio Pulkkanen (68). Both Van Rooyen and Norris, who pipped Pulkkanen due to his better world ranking, qualified to join Shubhankar at next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

https://citizen.co.za/sport/south-africa-sport/sa-golf-sport/1755454/it-pays-off-to-be-aggressive-says-joburg-open-winner-sharma/

Free-thinking Frittelli zooming up the rankings 0

Posted on December 11, 2017 by Ken

 

Dylan Frittelli is South Africa’s fastest rising golf star and a stellar 2017 has seen him zoom up the world golf rankings from number 152 at the start of the year to 55th when he teed it up at the Joburg Open at Randpark Golf Club this week.

The 27-year-old can certainly hit a little white dimpled ball as cleanly and powerfully as anyone else in the country, courtesy of the natural ball skills that saw him earn junior provincial colours in baseball, soccer, hockey and golf, but Frittelli clearly has another great strength, one that is as priceless as a ming vase when it comes to a sport as mentally taxing as golf.

Frittelli is clearly a deep thinker on the game and much of that thinking can be classified as lateral judging by the unusual decisions he has made.

Golf started as a Sunday driving range occupation with his provincial hockey-playing father, with a few rounds with friends over the holidays, but at the age of 11, Frittelli went to a World of Golf camp where his considerable talent was first spotted by a coach.

“From then I took things seriously, but I still played a bunch of sports until I was 15,” Frittelli said.

It was when the Johannesburg-born youngster went to St Albans boarding school in Pretoria that he made his first eccentric decision that worked out wonderfully.

“At St Albans, I asked the headmaster if I could just play golf and he said no, because they needed me in the cricket and hockey teams. So I did home-schooling instead, it was a bit of a mad scientist idea and I just said ‘let’s see what happens’. I started matric in Grade 10 and was done a year earlier than if I’d stayed in school,” Frittelli explained.

The tall, dark-haired Frittelli continues to do things differently to this day, foregoing time-consuming and often energy-draining practice rounds on courses he has played before, and even taking a compass on to the tee with him to ensure he gets his angles dead right.

The extra year he gained through home-schooling allowed Frittelli to not only play more golf but also seriously consider trying to get into the American college golf programme.

“I had it in mind that I really wanted to go to the United States and when I won the Junior World Championships in San Diego when I was 17, that opened doors for me. It was between the University of Texas and Arkansas, and Texas offered me a full scholarship,” he said.

And, by a quirk of fate, a young Jordan Spieth soon also arrived at the University of Texas and he and Frittelli would earn the Longhorns their first national championship title in 40 years in 2012, the South African sinking a 30-foot putt on the 18th to claim the win.

“Jordan was still a junior then, but I stayed in the same dorm as him at the Spirit International and helped persuade him to come to Texas. We were pretty much playing at the same level back then and to make the putt to win Nationals was huge, especially since we hadn’t won for so long,” Frittelli said.

Frittelli has won twice on the European Tour this year and, although his chances of adding to that tally at the Joburg Open are slim as he ended his second round 10 shots off the pace, he looks set to break into the top-50 in the world rankings in the near future.

And then he will be going to the majors, from which he hopes to get into the U.S. PGA Tour, especially since he still has a house in Austin, Texas.

He also badly wants to win in South Africa, to show local fans, who have not had much chance to get to know him, what he’s made of.

“I’ve only gained spots through qualifying school on the European and Sunshine tours but I would love to play in the U.S. as well. I also haven’t had any big victories in South Africa, which I would love to do because that would definitely cement my standing here.

“But I pride myself on being able to play well away from home and I won in Canada, the U.S. and Puerto Rico as an amateur, and now in Europe and Mauritius as a pro. Every good result you get breeds confidence and I felt really calm winning in Mauritius last week, which is how you want to be. No stress,” the laid-back surfing fan said.

https://citizen.co.za/sport/1753864/sas-fastest-rising-golf-star/

First matchplay championship in 25 years on Sunshine Tour 0

Posted on September 11, 2017 by Ken

 

For the first time in nearly 25 years, a matchplay tournament will feature on the Sunshine Tour programme when the South African Matchplay Championship is held at Zwartkop Country Club from Tuesday to Sunday.

Zwartkop is a short, 6,442-metre course in Centurion that is ideally suited to matchplay golf. It hosted a famous exhibition match in 1966 between Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus.

As Dale Hayes, the popular Yogi-Bear like figure synonymous with South African golf and the owner/director of Zwartkop, points out, the course may not be long, but the Hennops River winding through it presents a good mental challenge, especially for matchplay. Several of the smallish greens are fringed by the river, meaning shots that are either too short or too long are in danger of a watery grave.

“Top-class golfers hit the ball so far these days that Zwartkop is not long enough to be a great test of strokeplay golf. But when Handa [the sponsors] contacted me about hosting an event and they asked what format we should have, I straight away said matchplay.

“Because of the river, there’s water on 10 of the holes, with seven of those coming into play for the pros. So there’s a lot of risk or reward involved and a golfer needs to decide if he’s going to be aggressive or not. If he’s standing over a shot and is first to go, he’s got to decide whether to have a go or play it safe.

“You need a lot of thinking around this golf course – you can’t just step up and smash driver. Every shot requires a lot of thought and if you get too clever, then the water will be waiting for you,” Hayes said.

While this weekend’s HSBC Champions in China will obviously attract the biggest names in South African golf, Hayes says he is still “very pleased” with the quality of the field.

Jbe Kruger, the diminutive golfer with the heart of a Staffie who is third on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, will headline the 128-man field and can expect a stiff challenge from the likes of reigning SA Open champion Hennie Otto, former champion James Kingston, veteran Des Terblanche and three-time European Tour winner Darren Fichardt.

Hayes is expecting a highly entertaining show from these top golfers.

“Matchplay is the most popular form of golf; it’s what you play against your buddies. Spectators can come and see some special golf. The golfers will be aggressive and will go for it and there should be lots of birdies and eagles, which you don’t see in strokeplay,” Hayes said.

The prize pool is R2 million and the winner will walk away with R300,000 as well as valuable Order of Merit points, while even first-round losers take away R4,700 from the event.

The support from the sponsor’s founder, Dr Haruhisa Handa’s ISPS – the International Sports Promotion Society – means there will also be a disabled component to the tournament.

Sixteen disabled golfers, including some from the On Course Foundation, which gives seriously injured members of the British Armed Forces the opportunity to play golf, will play in a concurrent tournament.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2012-10-29-golf-first-matchplay-championship-in-25-years-on-sunshine-tour/#.WbZ5CbIjHIU

Woods chasing records while Grace & Coetzee make debuts 0

Posted on August 15, 2017 by Ken

 

While the revitalised Tiger Woods is favoured to close to within three of Jack Nicklaus’s record 18 major titles when the Masters gets underway this evening, Branden Grace and George Coetzee will make their debuts at Augusta, lifting South Africa’s representation in one of golf’s most hallowed events to an all-time high of eight.

The pair will join compatriots Tim Clark, Louis Oosthuizen, Ernie Els, Charl Schwartzel, Richard Sterne and Trevor Immelman in an event that has seen five South African triumphs – Gary Player in 1961, 74 and 78; Immelman in 2008 and Schwartzel in 2011.

The last player to win on his Masters debut was Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 and, although Oosthuizen was edged into second by Bubba Watson in a playoff last year and Els is the reigning British Open champion, the spotlight has been elsewhere.

Woods, who has risen like the phoenix back to number one in the world, is the clear favourite, bringing both great form – three wins in his last five starts – and tremendous pedigree, having four previous Masters titles, to the tournament.

Even Nicklaus backs Woods to kick-start his quest for 19 major titles again.

“If Tiger doesn’t figure it out here, after the spring he’s had, then I don’t know. I’ve said, and I continue to say it, that I still expect him to break my record. I think he’s just too talented, too driven and too focused on that. From this point, he’s got to win five majors, which is a pretty good career for most people to start at age 37. But I still think he’s going to do it, he’s in contention every year,” Nicklaus said.

The other contenders are Rory McIlroy, who returned to form with a second-place finish in last weekend’s Texas Open, three-time champion Phil Mickelson and, if you believe the British press, perennial favourite Ian Poulter, even though the Ryder Cup star is battling allergies as practically everything is blooming at Augusta at the moment.

This year’s Masters will also see the emergence of a stunning new talent who could not only be the successor to Woods but also the precursor to the Chinese dominance of the game many have predicted.

The 14-year-old Guan Tianlang will smash Matteo Mannesero’s record of being the youngest golfer to play in the Masters by two years and the youngster has impressed all and sundry in the build-up to the Major.

The son of a keen seven-handicap golfer, who knew his boy was something special when he beat him aged seven, Guan qualified for the Masters by winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championships in November.

Woods and two-time champion Tom Watson were among the legends he played practice rounds with, and both came away with the impression they were in the presence of future greatness.

“I enjoyed playing with Guan, he has good tempo, his rhythm is very good. Once he grows a little bit, he will be able to get the club faster. He will use a different swing plane when he gets taller and stronger,” Watson said.

“He’s so consistent,” said Woods. “He was hitting a lot of hybrids into the holes yesterday, hitting them spot-on, right on the numbers. He knew what he was doing, he knew the spots he had to land the ball and to be able to pull it off. Good scouting, good prep, but also even better execution.”

The importance of course knowledge is magnified at Augusta, where the slopes on the fairways and greens are far steeper than the television coverage portrays. It really is the thinking man’s golf course.

“There isn’t a single hole out there that can’t be birdied if you just think, but there isn’t one that can’t be double-bogeyed if you ever stop thinking,” was the famous quote of Bobby Jones, the Masters co-founder and winner of seven Majors as an amateur.

The veteran Els gave the rookie Grace some words of advice before the tournament and he used the Jones quote.

“Overall I’d say it’s a tough golf course to learn in a hurry. I’m sure this will be the first of many visits to Augusta in your [Grace’s] career, so try to enjoy it and soak it all up. There are certain ‘crunch shots’ at Augusta where the tariff is very high and from one to 18 there is no other course where the margins between a birdie and a bogey are so small. You have to commit to your shots and be aggressive to your spots, even if that’s 25-feet right of the pin.

“You’ll know already that the slopes are more severe than they appear on television, so you hit a lot of iron shots from sloping lies and you’ve got the big elevation changes coming into some of those greens. The wind can switch around, especially in Amen Corner.

“The short game is the biggest thing at Augusta, though. The grass around the greens is mowed very tight and against the direction of play, so you have to be very precise with your strike. Obviously the speed and the slope of the greens get your attention, as well. Other than that, it’s really pretty straightforward!”

In Grace’s case, his short game, especially his lob-wedge, is impressive, but what is also relevant is that he is comfortable playing a high draw, which Augusta favours.

Apart from the advice from Els, Grace has also played a practice round with no less of an authority on Augusta than Player.

“I’m hitting the ball like I did in January again and I’m ready. Excitement will take care of the rest. It’s an experience I’ve never had before, Augusta and the Green Jacket is the most special of them all because of the history and South Africans having done well in the Masters in the past.

“I’ve been given some great insights in the practice rounds and everyone has just tried to help George and I as much as possible. Obviously I was disappointed to miss the cut in my last Major, but there was a little bit of extra pressure then because I had come in from nowhere really.

“Now I’m not worried that I have to go out and play well, I’m not worried about what people think because I’m number 32 in the world and I can just go out and enjoy myself. I’m in a good place,” Grace said.

Whatever the result, many would say he is in the best place of all for a golfer: beautiful Augusta in the springtime.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-04-11-masters-preview-tiger-tiger-burning-bright/#.WZLvBlUjHIU

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