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Ken Borland

Coetzee & Van Zyl on top as Millvale ‘torment’ ends 0

Posted on February 18, 2016 by Ken


George Coetzee and Jaco van Zyl are at the top of the leaderboard after the second round of the Chase to the Investec Cup final, but both are relieved that their torment on the beautiful but treacherous Millvale course is now over as the elite 30-man field relocates to Sun City for the last two rounds on the Lost City course.

Coetzee, who shared the overnight lead with Charl Schwartzel, shot a two-under-par 70 on Friday to go to six-under for the tournament, alone in front and projected to finish first in the Chase to the Investec Cup final standings, which would win him the bonus pool prize of a cool R3.5 million.

Van Zyl, after shooting 73 on the first day, produced Friday’s best round, a five-under-par 67 that lifted him to four-under overall, two shots behind Coetzee.

Both their rounds featured just one bogey, a six on the par-five sixth for Van Zyl and for Coetzee on the seventh, a remarkable effort on a course as tough as Millvale with its slick greens, plenty of water and a tricky wind.

“You’ve just got to try and stick around here, it’s a great test of golf with firm greens, the flags tucked away and a lot of water. If you start on the 10th then you have seven really tough holes on the trot from the 15th to the third and you just try for level-par.

“It should be a bit easier at Lost City on Saturday and Sunday, there’s a bit more scoring opportunities. I’m hitting the ball well, so I look forward to that,” Van Zyl, who was the inaugural Chase to the Investec Cup champion in 2013, said.

“I survived – it was another tough day,” Coetzee said. “I didn’t play as well today, but I scrambled and made pars. I drove the ball better yesterday, but I putted better today. I’m where I want to be, but there’s still a lot of golf to play.”

The Millvale course is hard enough without bad luck playing a part, but Van Zyl’s bogey on six came when a bee landed on his ball on his downswing and he put his second into the water, while Schwartzel, the co-leader after the first round, woke up with a painful shoulder and slipped down the leaderboard after shooting a 74.

It was a good effort by Schwartzel considering every shot had him in pain, but the 2011 Masters champion said he will be forced to withdraw on Saturday if anti-inflammatories can’t get the swelling down.

Schwartzel is four behind Coetzee, alongside Justin Harding, who has produced two sub-par rounds of 71 practically out of nowhere given his recent form.

Darren Fichardt, Dean Burmester and Jean Hugo, all long-time Sunshine Tour pros, are all on one-under-par and in a position to shake up the leaderboard over the weekend.

*Defending champion Lee-Anne Pace, South Africa’s highest-ranked women’s golfer, fired a three-under-par 68 to lead the Investec Cup for Ladies by three strokes over Monique Smit after the first round.



Willett deserves his ‘ridiculous’ Sun City cash-in 0

Posted on January 29, 2015 by Ken

Danny Willett called it a “ridiculous” amount of money as he cashed in to the tune of $1.25 million by winning the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City on Sunday, but his sensational final round of 66 to head the elite 30-man field by four strokes deserved no less.

It is a triumph the 27-year-old will no doubt cherish, being just his second, but he also maintains that one of the most lucrative tournaments on the European Tour is extremely special in its own right.

“It’s a ridiculous amount of money to win, but a week like this won’t be matched anywhere, not even on the PGA Tour. It’s great to win against a very good field, because it says I’m improving and I can compete against the best,” Willett said.

The win takes the former amateur world number one into the top 60 on the world professional rankings and means a definite place in the Majors is beckoning, never mind the Ryder Cup points earned by one of Europe’s rising stars.

It was a win based on his aggression off the tee and his deft touch around and on the greens.

“We [he shared the credit with caddy John Smart] had a good game-plan, this course is visually intimidating off the tee, but we wanted to be aggressive and take it on, I trusted my driver. We would take on shots where others would lay back.

“I also felt comfortable on the greens, they remind me of home without much grain on them. The grass around the greens is also not as sticky as elsewhere, it feels similar to home,” Willett said.

With that positive attitude, he perhaps caught the other Englishmen in the final three-ball napping and Luke Donald and Ross Fisher were still trying to get into their rounds by the time Willett had roared to three birdies in the first five holes.

“I hit a lot of driver on the first few holes where a lot of other golfers would hit irons. It meant I had a five-iron into two, a nine-iron into three, where the others are hitting five or six-irons into narrow greens. There was no hanging back for me,” Willett said.

Donald endured a frustrating day on his 37th birthday with a one-over-par 73, but the overnight leader had the good grace to rave about Willett’s performance.

“I could have played a bit better but I still would have had to shoot five‑under just to tie with Danny.  He played really focused golf today and hats off, he’s a deserved winner.

“He just had a red‑hot putter, didn’t seem to miss and did everything really well. He just drove it amazingly well around here, which is a very tough, tight golf course. There’s a lot of trouble, and every time when the pressure is on, he hit it down the middle,” Donald said.

Willett had reason to be smug as he was barely challenged in the final round, but he admitted that he still felt the pressure.

“It was always comfortable enough, but you still put pressure on yourself, you’re saying ‘well I can only throw this away from here’. Three-putting on nine after I hit two good shots in gave me a kick up the backside and it was a good one to win … “ he said.

He was worth it all the way, particularly on the weekend when he shot 65-66, and the richness of the event means he now has a sizeable head-start on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

“It’s obviously a real boost, I’ll be leading the Order of Merit and hopefully the other wins will come along the way,” Willett said.

The quality of his play suggests that win may even come next weekend at the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.


Time for caution at brutal Gary Player CC course 0

Posted on January 08, 2015 by Ken

The first day of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City will be a time for caution as the elite 30-man field – which includes 17 debutants – takes on the brutal Gary Player Country Club course.

Recent rains means the rough is up – but not as high as in some years – while hot weather the last couple of days will make the greens firmer and faster, adding to the difficulty once golfers have safely found the fairway.

Defending champion Thomas Bjorn, whose 65 on the final day last year won him the title and his biggest paycheque ever on his third attempt, said on Wednesday that it was a tough course to tame.

Round one draw – tee times

10.10am – Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spain), Tim Clark (SA), Shane Lowry (Ireland).

10.21am – Joost Luiten (Netherlands), Jaco Ahlers (SA), Kevin Na (USA).

10.32am – Marc Warren (Scotland), Danie van Ronder (SA), Danny Willett (England).

10.43am – Louis Oosthuizen (SA), Lee Westwood (England), Martin Kaymer (Germany).

10.54am  – Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Thailand), Dawie van der Walt (SA), Brendon Todd (USA).

11.05am – Jonas Blixt (Sweden), Tommy Fleetwood (England), Mikko Ilonen (Finland).

11.16am – George Coetzee (SA), Marcel Siem (Germany), Ross Fisher (England).

11.27am – Jamie Donaldson (Wales), Stephen Gallacher (Scotland), Thongchai Jaidee (Thailand).

11.38am – Brooks Koepka (USA), Pablo Larrazabal (Spain), Alexander Levy (France).

11.49am – Thomas Bjorn (Denmark), Charl Schwartzel (SA), Luke Donald (England).

“If you’re not playing well, then this course is a beast to get around, there are certainly stretches that can really bite you. But there are opportunities to score well too, which is the nature of a good course.

“I remember the Sunday last year was a great day, but it was a tough battle with good players and little things went my way on the back nine. It was certainly a big boost for me, it gave me the belief that I could make another Ryder Cup team, that on really tough courses I can still compete with the best, the game is still there.

“I have a good eye for the course and hopefully I can put up a strong defence, but somebody will kick-start the 2015 year in a great way here,” the 43-year-old seasoned professional said.

Bjorn is not renown for bombing the ball off the tee, but his victory last year will provide inspiration for two South African challengers – Louis Oosthuizen and Tim Clark. Both said they will adopt a cautious approach as the $6.5 million event starts at 10.10am on Thursday morning with Clark in the opening three-ball alongside Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez and Irishman Shane Lowry.

“On the first day you just want to start with a solid round, to set it up. If you’re struggling with your game, then this is a tough course, and with the new thing of 30 guys playing, anyone who gets hot could run away with it.

“But I’ve played here a few times and every year has been a bit better. My game is in good shape after a few weeks off, I’ve done some practice and it feels pretty good. But you never really know what to expect and I’ll just try to stay out of my way,” Clark, whose last start saw him finish second in the lucrative World Golf Championships HSBC Champions, said.

The 38-year-old is making his fifth appearance in the Nedbank Golf Challenge and was runner-up to a runaway Lee Westwood in 2010 in his last outing at Sun City. In 2009 he finished one stroke behind playoff winner Robert Allenby and Henrik Stenson, while his other finishes were sixth in 2005 and tied-10th in 2003.

Oosthuizen is making his fourth appearance in the last five years and is also hoping to learn from those experiences and improve on his previous best finish of fourth in 2012.

“I’m confident going into the tournament, but I want to take it slow. It’s the type of place where a bad hole is around the corner. There are tough tee shots and spots that you need to stay away from. I’ll be cautious out there and take it slow.

“The rough is always very thick and you need to hit fairways and not just take driver and bomb it. There are a lot of holes out there where I’ll be hitting five woods, three-woods and three-irons just to get myself in play,” Oosthuizen said.

One man lurking ominously in the field is Westwood, the two-time champion and Ryder Cup star, who said he was coming into the tournament with confidence.

“I’ve been lucky enough to win it a couple of times, I’ve been coming here since 1997 and it’s a championship I’ve always held in very high regard and want to win. My scoring average is pretty good round here and I’ve been looking forward to this week for a while. Hopefully I can play as well as I did a few years ago.

“There hasn’t been a lot of rain recently so the rough isn’t that long. There could be some low scoring this week, but obviously the conditions will dictate whether or not that’s the case. That’s always the way in professional golf,” Westwood said.

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