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Ken Borland



Otaegui takes advantage of friendly conditions with superb 62 0

Posted on December 30, 2015 by Ken

 

Spaniard Adrian Otaegui took advantage of the friendlier conditions available at the start of the second round of the Tshwane Open at Pretoria Country Club on Friday, shooting a superb eight-under-par 62 to claim a two-stroke lead at the halfway stage of the co-sanctioned tournament.

Otaegui was in the first three-ball off at 6.40am and he set the tone for his round with birdies on the par-four second and third holes. Five birdies in a row from the eighth saw him surge up the leaderboard and he then made twos at both of the par-threes on the back nine, before bogeying the last to finish on 11-under for the tournament.

“We were first to tee off this morning and the conditions were perfect. I like playing that early and I did really well. I made a lot of birdies and I’m happy with my round. It was a good round from the beginning.

“The greens were perfect, because we opened the course. They were good yesterday, but when you play first the course is in very good condition and you can take advantage,” Otaegui said after his best round on the European Tour.

South African Merrick Bremner is two shots back at nine-under-par after a typically attacking approach brought him a four-under-par 66. He started his round at the 10th hole but was level-par for the day after a bogey on the first, but four birdies would come in his last six holes to leave him alone in second place.

While joint overnight leader Morten Orum Madsen would come undone with two double-bogeys in his first four holes and successive bogeys around the turn, leaving him six shots off the pace on five-under, David Horsey kept himself in strong contention.

The Englishman started on the 10th and put a double-bogey on the fourth behind him as he collected two birdies coming in to finish on eight-under, in a tie for third with South Africans Keith Horne and Trevor Fisher Junior, and Italian Edoardo Molinari.

Sunshine Tour Order of Merit leader Andy Sullivan had an icky round of 71 to miss the cut, while it also all went wrong for Lindani Ndwandwe, who posted a promising 68 in the first round before a run of five successive bogeys from the third hole saw him shoot 79 on Friday and also miss the cut.

The in-form Wallie Coetsee had steadily climbed the leaderboard with four birdies as he stood on the 18th tee tied with Bremner on nine-under, but then suffered a major blow as his tee-shot found one of the numerous bunkers on a hole that is usually a par-five but is a par-four in this tournament.

The lapse led to a double-bogey which pushed Coetsee back down to seven-under, in a tie for seventh with fellow South Africans Dean Burmester and George Coetzee.

Conditions were definitely trickier on the second day at Pretoria Country Club, with sunny and warm conditions speeding up the greens and a capricious breeze making club selection tricky.

“I found the wind quite tricky. It was really swirling in completely opposite directions and I got a lot of clubs wrong compared to yesterday. You’re trying to make birdies with wedges in your hand and you’re hitting it five or 10 metres short because the wind changes on you. That can get quite frustrating. I think the wind was the biggest factor in why the scores weren’t that low,” Horne said after his 67.

Otaegui, who learnt the game at the same Real Golf Club de San Sebastian as former Ryder Cup captain Jose-Maria Olazabal, who is also his mentor, said Pretoria Country Club suited him.

“I like these type of courses that are old-style and have trees, so that you have to place the ball. You don’t need to hit it far, but rather put it in a place where you can attack the pins. Even if I missed a few tee shots today I hit some good irons and gave myself birdie chances,” the 22-year-old said.

He may be on top of the leaderboard at the moment, but Otaegui is not getting ahead of himself as he eyes his first top-three finish on the European Tour.

“I’m happy, but we still have a lot of way to go. It’s just 50% of the tournament and so many things can happen. I just have to be patient tomorrow. Let’s see if I’ve learnt something from these last two rounds,” he said.

Molinari, a two-time European Tour winner and a former Ryder Cup player, was slow out of the gate as he started on the 10th, only making his first birdie on the 18th hole. But he also picked up shots on the first and on his last two holes to put himself amongst the leaders.

 

 

 

 

 

Bowling questions remain for Proteas 0

Posted on June 19, 2015 by Ken

The successful series against the West Indies did answer a few questions about the Proteas as they head into the World Cup, but a couple of glaring question marks remain – such as why the bowlers insist on banging the ball in halfway down the pitch so often?

Bowling coach Allan Donald was quoted as saying this week “I’d rather not have that many yorkers at the back end … at the World Cup, we want to be unpredictable in the last 10 overs and that is not going to be about bowling 40 yorkers in the last 10 overs.”

Not bowling yorkers is also becoming predictable, however, for this attack.

While the South African bowlers were generally dominant against the eighth-ranked West Indies – and let’s be honest, their batting was largely woeful – it was alarming to see how exposed the Proteas were once again in the death overs when Andre Russell, Darren Sammy and the tail took the tourists to an unlikely victory in the fourth ODI in Port Elizabeth.

The West Indies top-order was barely a factor through the series, meaning they were under pressure every time they batted; how will South Africa’s attack fare against much stronger batting line-ups at the World Cup, especially if the pitches are flat, without the luxury of early wickets?

Kyle Abbott was particularly disappointing in the series – taking just two wickets for 121 runs, conceded at a rate of 7.33 per over. It was depressing to see someone who had previously shown such skill in finding the blockhole, banging the ball in short and getting regularly smashed – perhaps Donald’s comments have something to do with that? There was surely a message in the second of those Abbott wickets coming from a full, straight delivery that bowled Marlon Samuels at Centurion.

Lady Luck has not been kind to South Africa in previous World Cups, but she tends to favour teams that are tactically astute, hard-working and gifted. The Proteas are certainly dedicated to their craft and in terms of talent we only need to mention AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn, so no issues there.

But while the batting looks so powerful – Rilee Rossouw adding his name into the mix of potential match-winners – their bowling remains vulnerable due to the current strategic thinking and I have a feeling opposing teams will back themselves to chase down whatever target South Africa set by putting them under pressure in the field.

The balance of the team – without a genuine all-rounder – is out, so JP Duminy and Farhaan Behardien have to share 10 overs or someone like Vernon Philander or Wayne Parnell has to bat seven.

That fifth-bowler portion will certainly be targeted by the opposition and sides like India and Australia will probably have a go at Morne Morkel and Philander as well.

Immersed in the pressure of a knockout game, how cool can Morkel stay? His display under the pump in Port Elizabeth suggests the portents are not that good, while Philander, at no more than fast-medium pace and generally sticking to line-and-length, could also be vulnerable.

The positives, however, are that South Africa, with Dale Steyn and Imran Tahir, are better than most at taking wickets in the middle overs and there will be no more feared batting line-up at the World Cup.

The bookies are hawking odds of between 3/1 and 13/3 on South Africa winning the World Cup, but they are only second favourites behind Australia – who range from 2/1 to 13/4 to win their fifth title.

There are a million different scenarios that could play out – and South Africa have historically provided the weirdest of those – but I will be hugely frustrated if the Proteas post 350-8 in a semi-final and then lose by three wickets in the final over as Duminy/Behardien travel for 90 runs in their 10 combined overs and Morkel and Philander concede 75 each.

Ryan McLaren or David Wiese are not part of the squad to provide a genuine fifth bowling option and from what we’ve seen from the West Indies series, South Africa are not going to be able to stray too far from their first-choice attack.

Which is not entirely a bad thing. Barring the number seven position, South Africa are a settled combination, going to Australasia with confidence and not many teams will fancy taking them on.

 

Bulls on top but trio chasing hard in SA Conference 0

Posted on June 17, 2015 by Ken

This year’s SuperRugby competition is just past the halfway stage and it’s clear that this season’s South African Conference winner could easily be one of four teams.

The current leaders are the Bulls, but just four points separate them from the fourth-placed Stormers and third-placed Sharks, while the Cheetahs are just a point behind.

The Bulls, Cheetahs and Stormers all won this weekend, while the Sharks lost 37-29 to the Chiefs in Hamilton, but collected a bonus point for scoring four tries.

This will be regarded as something of a success for the Sharks, especially since they were 24-0 down after just 17 minutes, and went into the match against the defending champions with several first-choice players out injured or on the bench.

And they could easily have picked up a second bonus point, were it not for a last-minute penalty conceded to Aaron Cruden.

The Bulls maintained a narrow lead at the top of the conference by beating the Waratahs 30-19 at Loftus Versfeld.

The match was a lot tougher than the scoreline suggests, but with the Bulls enjoying in the region of 60% of possession and territory they were clearly the better side, whatever sore loser Michael Cheika might have said after the game.

Waratahs coach Cheika had a full go at Argentinian referee Francisco Pastrana after the loss, which was a bit rich after his team had spent most of the match parked offsides, thereby making it much harder for the Bulls to penetrate their in-your-face defence.

But in such situations the Bulls have a tailor-made solution in flyhalf Morné Steyn and the Springbok calmly collected 25 points through six penalties, a conversion and a try. He looked like he was having a stroll in the park at times, and it was fantastic to see the hero of the 2009 season back at his best.

The Waratahs’ refusal to toe the line when it came to staying on-sides or rolling away in the tackle saw Steyn slot four first-half penalties to put the Bulls 12-5 ahead at the break.

The visitors’ only points in the first half came shortly before half-time when fullback Israel Folau tore through the Bulls’ defences for a brilliant try.

The Bulls generally did a good job in defence, but another lapse four minutes into the second half saw flank Michael Hooper bursting through and replacement prop Paddy Ryan finishing off the try to bring the Waratahs back on level terms at 12-12.

A Steyn penalty, after Ryan had kicked the ball away when miles offside, returned the lead to the Bulls 14 minutes later, but it was clear the persistent offending of the Waratahs was really starting to irk the home side. Captain Pierre Spies had a word with Pastrana, who agreed that Ryan’s offence had been cynical but did not deserve a yellow card because “he’s a front-ranker, you know”, said with a shrug of the shoulders.

The Bulls brushed off Pastrana’s leniency and a compelling mix of forward drives and sending the ball out wide saw them up the intensity on the hour mark. The Bulls were hard on attack, but former Lions star Jano Vermaak then deflected a long pass from Steyn that was intended for the man outside him, and once Folau had pounced on the loose ball, there was little doubt a try would be the outcome at the other end, flyhalf Bernhard Foley getting it.

But with Steyn in regal form and keeping the Bulls going forward, the home side scored 15 points in the last 13 minutes to clinch victory. Replacement scrumhalf Francois Hougaard, who was given a reception worthy of the mayor of Pretoria when he finally returned to action as a 53rd-minute substitute, dived over the side of a ruck to score after Steyn had been stopped just short of the line, before the flyhalf added a penalty and a try of his own.

Cheika may be upset with the referee, but he should perhaps turn his attention to the eight lineouts the Waratahs lost – Juandré Kruger and Flip van der Merwe were superb for the Bulls – and the poor goalkicking of Brendan McKibbin, who succeeded with just one of his four kicks at goal.

The Cheetahs beat the Southern Kings 26-12 but again, the match was tougher than the scoreline suggests.

The Kings had plenty of possession and enjoyed long stints in Cheetahs territory, but they did not have the skill or finishing ability of the hosts on attack.

The Cheetahs were excellent on defence and adept at creating space, and also dominated the breakdowns. Loose forwards Philip van der Walt and Lappies Labuschagne were formidable on defence and also superb on attack, and there is plenty of pace among the backs in the form of Raymond Rhule, Piet van Zyl and Willie le Roux, and turning opportunities into points was the home side’s most notable strength.

It’s always easy to criticise from the comfort of the armchair, but with that in mind, the Cheetahs really should have scored a fourth try in the last 35 minutes for a bonus point that would have put them on top of the conference.

The Stormers saw off the Hurricanes 18-16 in Palmerston North in a game also marred by lenient refereeing.

Steve Walsh should be hauled before the chairman of the referees’ panel to explain why Ben Franks escaped a yellow card, first for punching and then for twice collapsing the Stormers’ rolling maul on his own tryline in the space of two minutes, the Hurricanes having already lost one player for the same offence.

Duane Vermeulen was surely the man of the match as he put in an immense performance at eighthman, making 17 tackles and running 46 bullocking metres with ball-in-hand, the most for the Stormers.

The match-winning try came in the 63rd minute as Gio Aplon ran a fabulous line to back up Vermeulen’s charge off the back of a scrum.

Credit too must go to De Kock Steenkamp for some crucial lineout steals and captain Jean de Villiers for ensuring the Stormers were tactically astute in the way they handled the strong wind blowing down the ground. Hats off too to Bryan Habana for charging down a conversion attempt, those two points being the difference between the two sides in the end.

Sharks coach John Plumtree would have been dismayed by his team’s shoddy start and slack defending in their match against the Chiefs, but the character shown in the fightback and some of the fine attacking play would have pleased him no end.

With the Sharks 24-0 down inside the first quarter, there was fat chance of them getting anything from the game, but the seeds of their revival were sown in the set-pieces, which they dominated in impressive fashion.

Unfortunately, Keegan Daniel seemed to have forgotten this when, 15 minutes before the end of the game, he took a quick tap when the Sharks were awarded a penalty under the Chiefs’ poles, when he really should have called for a scrum, lineout or even kicked the penalty to close the deficit to just five points.

The Chiefs defence scrambled well and loose forward Tanerau Latimer got away with murder when he scooped the ball out of a ruck while on his knee. When the Sharks finally did get back on to attack and Pat Lambie kicked a penalty to make the score 29-34, there were only two minutes remaining.

Daniel then erred again when he went off his feet at a ruck and conceded the late penalty that cost the Sharks a potentially crucial point.

The Sharks also laboured under the burden of having two anonymous wings in Odwa Ndungane and Piet Lindeque, even though their attacking play was much better, forced by the massive early deficit.

Their set-pieces were also excellent, while Lubabalo Mthembu made a highly encouraging first start at eighthman.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-04-29-superrugby-wrap-bulls-hang-on-to-top-spot-as-cheetahs-miss-a-trick/#.VYFfXPmqqko

Sullivan still on top, but new local chasing him 0

Posted on March 16, 2015 by Ken

Englishman Andy Sullivan remained on top of the leaderboard after the second round of the South African Open at Glendower Golf Club on Friday, but there was a new local favourite challenging him as the tournament reached the halfway mark.

Sullivan posted a solid two-under-par 70 to go to eight-under-par overall, but while fellow overnight leader Jbe’ Kruger plummeted down the leaderboard with an 80, Charl Schwartzel came charging through with a 69 that left him just one stroke behind the 28-year-old from Nuneaton, the birthplace of George Eliot.

But Sullivan looks a genuine contender for the second oldest national open title, bringing an aggressive approach despite the tightness of the parklands course and the punishing tangle of kikuyu rough that lurks just off the fairway.

Things have only been looking up lately for Sullivan: He and his bride greeted the arrival of baby daughter Ruby in 2013, Sullivan has improved his European Tour order of merit position from 98th in 2013 to 33rd last year; and he will quite literally be rising up in spectacular fashion one of these days after winning a trip into space last September for a hole-in-one at the KLM Open.

Schwartzel surged to within a stroke of Sullivan by finishing birdie-eagle-birdie, but is struggling with a badly bruised toe and a swing that is making progress but is not quite where the 2011 Masters champion would like it to be.

“I’m not that far off, but there’s still a lot of holes left and someone can make up a score very quickly as we saw with my round.

“I was just missing fairways by a little bit, or when I finally hit a good shot I would three-putt, so nothing was really going for me. But any time you finish like that, it turns your day into a much better one and nobody was more surprised than me!

“I’m trying to get an old feeling back in my swing and it’s the same with the putter, I’ve spent quite a few hours on the practice green. I’m just trying to remember what I used to do, even going as far back as my junior days, just trying to be more consistent.

“But my toe was worse today. There’s no real pain when I hit the ball, it’s just the walking that is very painful. But I’m not playing in pain otherwise I would withdraw,” Schwartzel said.

Schwartzel is currently South Africa’s highest-ranked golfer at number 31 but is yet to win his national open. While his dream of putting his name on the same trophy as all the South African greats from Bobby Locke to Gary Player and Ernie Els is still very much alive, Kruger will probably have to wait another year after just scraping into the weekend on the cut-mark of two-over, 10 strokes off the pace.

Kruger spoke on the first day of how everyone in the field respects Sir Ernie so much, but the five-time champion joined him on two-over-par and looked in danger of missing the cut after a disastrous run of bogey, triple-bogey, triple-bogey from the eighth hole.

The absence of tournament host Els from the weekend would have cast a pall over the event, but the heir to Player’s throne pulled himself together and consecutive birdies on the 13th and 14th holes brought him to safety before he parred his way in to ensure that he is not totally out of contention on level-par, eight behind the leader.

Sullivan is a jovial, down-to-earth fellow and his approach to the testing Glendower course has been to keep it simple and attack.

He started on the 10th hole and promptly birdied the par-four 11th and 12th holes, but then had the misfortune of being out on the course when a brief squall hit the Edenvale area.

“The first three holes, it was flat calm and perfect for scoring. But then I stepped on to 13 and the wind really got up. Plus it wasn’t so warm so the ball didn’t go as long, so I was happy to get through my first nine holes without a blemish.

“I attacked just as much as in the first round, but the course was a bit tougher today and a couple of poor drives got punished. But I probably played a bit better today. I have nothing to fear, I have a good record in South Africa and I feel that I’m up to the task. I’m just going to go out and enjoy the weekend,” Sullivan said.

While Sullivan mostly used driver off the tee, Schwartzel opted for a mixture of driver, three-wood and two-iron and it worked well for him, particularly on his closing holes.

On the seventh he hit driver a long way, but an overhanging willow tree forced him to hit a low nine-iron for his approach, which finished 12-15 feet short of the hole, but Schwartzel nailed the birdie putt.

On the par-five eighth, a driver and five-iron left him on the front left fringe of the green and he sank a 20-footer for eagle.

Schwartzel went for the two-iron off the tee on the 367-metre ninth hole and a wonderful sand-wedge that spun left-to-right left him with an eight-footer for birdie, which he drained for a thrilling finish to his round.

It will also be a big weekend for JJ Senekal, who fired a 67 to move into a tie for third place on six-under-par with Denmark’s Lasse Jensen and fellow South African Colin Nel.

“It’s a great position to be in. There are a few good names up there and it’s good to see myself up there with the best. It feels good, it’s our biggest event and the one you want to do well in. It’s like our fifth major, not that I’ve played in one.

“This is our prestige tournament and with Ernie being involved and all of the history it’s exactly where you want to be. I watched Trevor Immelman win at Erinvale and walked with him. Back then I was trying to catch golf balls and gloves, now I’m the guy that wants to hand them out, so I’m living the dream. It was my dream and always what I wanted to do. Golf was life from a very young age and I’m happy to be here,” Senekal said.

For Els and Kruger, it’s just a case of being happy to be at Glendower for the weekend.

 http://citizen.co.za/304585/andy-sullivan-remains-top-leaderboard/

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