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Ken Borland



Koro Creek’s Ahlers takes the Investec bonus pool 0

Posted on April 22, 2016 by Ken

 

The members of Koro Creek Golf Estate in Modimolle are probably still celebrating after their representative, Jaco Ahlers, claimed the second-biggest paycheque on the Sunshine Tour by winning the Chase to the Investec Cup final at the Lost City on Sunday, thereby winning the R3.5 million bonus pool for topping the standings at the end of the season-long competition.

While Ahlers was celebrating the best day of his golfing career, there was bitter disappointment for Jaco van Zyl, who lost in a playoff that was only decided on the third trip down the 18th hole, and for overnight leader George Coetzee, who bombed out of contention with a double-bogey on the 17th.

Playoffs are nervewracking affairs at the best of times and Van Zyl recovered magnificently on their second trip down the 18th after putting his drive into the water down the right-hand side of the fairway and then leaving his third in the hazard in front of the green. But he did not get lucky a second time when his third playoff drive went in the same spot and his third shot, after dropping, was in the water in front of the green.

Ahlers, having slotted a pair of five-foot putts to halve the first two playoff holes, calmly slotted a six-footer for par to claim the spoils and continue his excellent record in playoffs.

“I was pretty calm. Three months ago I won a four-hole playoff to win the Cape Town Open and my first win in 2009 also came in a playoff, so that gave me confidence. It’s amazing to win and I still haven’t had time to think about it, really. I just wanted to win, I wasn’t thinking about the money, but we have just bought a house so it will help,” Ahlers said.

Although Van Zyl was not able to clinch the deal, he was philosophical about the loss, saying the 18th was not the sort of hole that suited his game and all he could think about was ‘do not hit the ball right into the water’.

The 13-time Sunshine Tour winner played superbly, however, just to make the playoff with four birdies in the last five holes.

Ahlers matched Van Zyl, an eagle on the fourth, with two birdies either side of it, and three birdies in a row from the 11th laying the foundation for his 66.

Coetzee still had a share of the lead after his third birdie of his round on the par-four 14th, but he was not able to hang on to it as a wretched drive on the 17th, which was so far left it was almost in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve, led to a double-bogey.

Even a remarkable birdie on the 18th was not enough. His drive was far left in the waste bunker and a well-struck wood from there just ran out of green and went into the water. Coetzee dropped and then sank his fourth from the fringe.

*Lee-Anne Pace was not challenged over the three days of the Investec Cup for Ladies and strolled to an eight-stroke victory on Sunday, also winning the bonus pool for the second year in succession.

Coetzee struggles but still leads Investec Cup 0

Posted on March 17, 2016 by Ken

George Coetzee and Jaco van Zyl were the final two-ball in the third round of the Chase to the Investec Cup final at the Lost City on Saturday, but both had their problems to leave the race for the massive bonus pool wide open in the last tournament of the Sunshine Tour’s lucrative summer swing.

Coetzee, who led Van Zyl by two shots after the second round, battled to a one-under 71 and his lead is still two shots. But Van Zyl is no longer second, having struggled to a one-over 73 that saw him drop back to three-under for the tournament, four behind Coetzee and in a tie for fourth with Jaco Ahlers (68), Tjaart van der Walt (69) and Chris Swanepoel (69).

Charl Schwartzel, whose shoulder gave him no obvious problems on Saturday, picked up three birdies on the back nine to shoot 70 and climb into third place on four-under.

But the round of the day came from Jbe’ Kruger, who blazed around Sun City’s lesser-known but tremendous course in just 65 strokes to jump to five-under overall, in second place just two strokes behind Coetzee.

The diminutive Kruger and the burly Ahlers made their moves early, but their rounds were still played in a blustery wind as a storm rumbled nearby but missed the Sun City complex.

Kruger made an almost-immediate impression with a superb string of five successive birdies from the third hole, needing just 10 putts on the front nine as he went out in 31. He picked up another birdie on the tricky par-four 14th, before birdies on 16 and 18 sandwiched his only bogey, on the par-four 17th.

Ahlers’ birdies came in much smaller families, with a pair on eight and nine and another pair on the last two rounds, and he did not drop a shot in a fine round.

The devout Kruger was remarkably honest about his round.

“I played decent golf but not as well as my score suggests. The good Lord helped me with my putts because I didn’t hit the ball that well but I made every putt from inside 20 feet,” Kruger said.

Coetzee was disappointed with his round, saying his driver and long irons are going to have to sharpen up if he is to win the tournament and the R3.5 million prize that would come his way for topping the final Chase to the Investec Cup standings.

“I’m not that pleased with my round, my driver wasn’t so good today, I struggled with it so I tried to hit a few more long irons, but it just wasn’t there today. Fortunately my short game was pretty good, but my long game is going to have to sharpen up,” Coetzee said.

The 11th and the 18th are the two par-fives on the back nine and both are well-bunkered. But Coetzee bogeyed both with errant tee-shots that went into the thick bush on the 11th and into the reed-lined water hazard on the last.

On the 11th he chipped out sideways after taking a drop, scuffed his fourth just short of the grassy swale that cuts across the fairway and then hit a magnificent fifth shot to a couple of feet from the hole, limiting the damage to a bogey.

“I topped my three-wood  on the 11th and I was very happy to just minimise the damage. I had pretty much accepted a seven there,” Coetzee said.

On 18 he also had to take a drop after a wayward drive, but this time a wonderful long-iron sent his third on to the fringe of the green, 35 feet from the flag. Unfortunately Coetzee sent his first, downhill putt 10 feet past the hole and was not able to sink the return effort, once again suffering a bogey.

“On the front nine I had one or two birdie opportunities that I missed and I made a couple of mistakes that I was able to save par from, so I guess those cancel each other out and I had nine pars going out. But then I had a nice birdie on 10 and I thought ‘now I can get going’, but that momentum came to a stop pretty quickly. At least I did not go backwards though … “ Coetzee said.

And it was not all bad for the 28-year-old as he picked up birdies on the par-three 13th and the par-four 16th.

On the 180-metre 13th, Coetzee was not swayed by the other golfers using seven-iron and he showed his skill by cutting a punched six-iron to five feet from the flag.

In terms of the overall standings, Coetzee is also in first place now, while Kruger and Schwartzel are not eligible for the bonus pool prize because their rankings coming into the final were too low.

Ahlers is poised to strike in fourth place overall, while Van Zyl is going to have to improve on the 67 he shot in the second round at Millvale to improve on his current fifth place.

Jacques Blaauw is on level-par for the tournament and will need to repeat the 61 he shot on the final day of the Tshwane Open last weekend to be sure of winning the bonus pool because he is second in the standings at present.

Trevor Fisher Junior, who led the standings coming into the final, is on five-over in 18th place for the tournament, but is currently third in the overall rankings, so a top-10 finish could see the R3.5 million going into his pocket for the second successive year.

http://citizen.co.za/348462/chase-to-the-investec-cup-final-3rd-round/

Expanded field, points & prizemoney for NGC 0

Posted on February 25, 2016 by Ken

 

This year’s Nedbank Golf Challenge will feature an expanded field of 30 golfers and Official World Golf Ranking and Ryder Cup qualifying points, as well as the increased prizemoney counting for both the European and Sunshine tour orders of merit as insurance against the weakening quality of the entrants.

The selection criteria for the invitational tournament will now cover all the world’s tours. The top 10 willing players from the top 30 of the PGA Tour’s Fedex Cup rankings, the top 10 from the top 30 of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, the winners of the Asian, Japanese and Australasian tour orders of merit and the best of the Sunshine Tour all qualify for the tournament at Sun City.

But it is with the European Tour that the Nedbank Golf Challenge has specifically thrown in its lot, gaining co-sanctioned status from the powerful tour that now rivals America’s PGA Tour.

The European Tour has for a long time enviously eyed the Nedbank Golf Challenge in early December as their golfers go into hibernation in the freezing, dark northern winter.

“This is a great opportunity for the European Tour to finally be involved in and sanction this event,” said Keith Waters, European Tour chief operating officer and director of international policy. He was talking at the launch of the new-look Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sandton on Thursday. “It really resonates with those of us in northern Europe because at that time of year, the weather is grim and nobody’s playing golf, so we always look forward to watching the event on TV. Now we’re officially part of it, which is great.”

The revamped Challenge will also prove to be of greater service to local golf, with at least five South Africans now guaranteed entry into the event.

While the previous year’s winner of the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit is still automatically invited, the opportunity to play at Sun City will now be extended to the winner of the South African Open and the Alfred Dunhill Championship and the top two on the 2013 money-list. To ensure a minimum of five South African golfers, the local invitations will then go according to the Official World Golf Rankings.

“These are very exciting times for us and we now have another co-sanctioned event in South Africa. The Nedbank Golf Challenge is the eighth. I don’t know of any other place that has so many,” said Selwyn Nathan, the executive director of the Sunshine Tour.

“We spoke so much about the Tournament of Hope [which is no longer happening], but the Nedbank Golf Challenge, in its 33rd year, is now our hope for a better future for South African golf. The increased opportunity for our players is a major asset for the Sunshine Tour in terms of inspiring our current stars. We’ve always prided ourselves on being able to open doors for a player to compete in some of the biggest tournaments in world golf and the Nedbank Golf Challenge will bring about an exciting conclusion to our season.”

The 2013 event will take place a week later than usual – from 5 to 8 December – and will have an increased prizemoney pool of $6.5-million, a 30% increase from the $5-million the 12-man field shared last year. The winner will still take away $1.25-million and the 30th place finisher will collect $100,000.

“We wanted to ensure we could still compete with events on all the other tours and not just in South Africa, and the prizemoney is still lucrative enough to attract any golfer,” tournament director Alastair Roper said.

“And we’ve gone a week later in the year and that will give us some protection. That weekend will be ours going forward and there won’t be any other rival European Tour events. Most schools are breaking up later these days and it’s important that the youth come and watch. The Nedbank Golf Challenge is what young golfers aspire to play and they want to emulate the stars they see at Sun City.

“With the prizemoney counting for both the Sunshine and European tour orders of merit and Ryder Cup and Official World Golf Ranking points on offer, it makes it extremely attractive for golfers to travel here for the event. This year the Race to Dubai final will end on 17 November, followed by the South African Open finishing on the 24th and the Alfred Dunhill Championship on 1 December, and we hope our event will also encourage golfers to play in those tournaments,” Roper added.

There had earlier been speculation that the field might be increased to as many as 50 golfers, but Roper said this was not only unaffordable for Sun City but would also dilute the quality of the event.

“We were always a bit nervous about increasing the size of the field, because then you can lose exclusivity and the tournament becomes too big. We discussed this with Keith Waters as far back as 2001 and we thought about 36, but we were never ever going to go bigger than that. The bigger you grow, the more questions you have over quality,” Roper said.

The Nedbank Golf Challenge is certainly now positioned as one of the premium events on the European Tour calendar. Apart from the World Golf Championship events and majors, there are only three tournaments that offer greater prizemoney, and all of them are at the end of the season in the weeks preceding the Sun City carnival – the BMW Masters in China, the Turkish Airlines Open and the World Tour Championship finale in Dubai.

But it seems the European Tour may well want their pound of flesh in return for their backing and Waters, in contradiction to Roper, said they envisioned an increase in the size of the field going forward.

“The Dubai finale has a 60-man field and the three events preceding that, two in China and one in Turkey, are 78-man events. Twelve is definitely too few for us and, as the Nedbank Golf Challenge develops, there is the opportunity to increase the field even further from 30. We hope we can find that balance between what people are used to and what the European Tour needs,” Waters told The Daily Maverick.

Where the Nedbank Golf Challenge has admirably succeeded is in finding a balance between an invitational, exhibition tournament and a regular tour event. There had been speculation that some sort of gimmick such as women’s golfers joining the seniors’ Champions Challenge would be added but, even though Roper said these facets could still be introduced in future, Sun International have gone for quality.

This is surely the better option and, with more South Africans in the field as well, one hopes the public will flock to a rejuvenated Nedbank Golf Challenge at the end of the year.

Qualifying criteria

(a) Defending Champion – Martin Kaymer.

(b) The winner of the 2012 Sunshine Tour Official Order of Merit if not otherwise exempt above – Branden Grace.

(c) The leading 10 available players not otherwise exempt in (a) or (b) above from within the top 30 only of the Final 2013 Fedex Cup.

(d) The leading 10 available players not otherwise exempt in (a), (b) or (c) above from within the top 30 only of the Final 2013 Race to Dubai.

(e) South African players to be selected in order of their position on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) as of Monday 18 November 2013, such that the total number of South African players qualifying through (a) to (d) combined as at the conclusion of the 2013 Race to Dubai is 5* in total.

(f) The winner of the 2012 Asian Tour Order of Merit if not otherwise exempt above. – Thaworn Wiratchant

(g) The winner of the 2012 Japan Golf Tour Order of Merit if not otherwise exempt above. – Hiroyuki Fujita

(h) The winner of the 2012 PGA Tour of Australasia’s Order of Merit if not otherwise exempt above. – Peter Senior

(i) The winner of the 2013 South African Open if not otherwise exempt above (A blank entry will be filed for this winner).

(j) The winner of the 2013 Alfred Dunhill Championship if not otherwise exempt above (A blank entry will be filed for this winner).

(k) The balance of the field will be completed as follows:

(i) The player ranked number one on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit as of Monday 25 November 2013, if not otherwise exempt above.

(ii) The player ranked second on the 2013 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit as of Monday 25 November 2013, if not otherwise exempt above.

(iii) Players selected in ranking order from the OWGR as of Monday 18 November 2013.

After close of entries, should a player in Categories (c) or (d) withdraw, they will be replaced by the next eligible player from within their category, up until 18:00 (local time in Sun City) on Sunday 1 December. Thereafter a withdrawal from these categories will be replaced by the next eligible player from category (k) above. A withdrawal from any other category after close of entries will be replaced by the next eligible player from category (k) above.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-06-21-nedbank-golf-challenge-gets-bigger-in-players-and-stature/#.Vs7sCfl97IU

Schwartzel puts two frustrating years behind him at Leopard Creek 0

Posted on December 01, 2015 by Ken

 

Charl Schwartzel put two years of brutally hard work, frustration and demoralisation behind him as he won the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek on Sunday, cruising to victory by four strokes in the co-sanctioned European/Sunshine Tour event outside Malelane.

It is Schwartzel’s first win since he completed a hat-trick of titles at Leopard Creek in the last week of November 2013; since then his swing disintegrated and he even discovered that his putting had major flaws.

“It feels fantastic to win again because the last two years have been the biggest slump my golf has ever been in, sometimes I would think ‘am I ever going to win again?’ I’ve worked really hard in that time, your expectations get higher and then it’s frustrating when one or two bad rounds mean you just can’t get to the top,” Schwartzel said after his final-round 70 left him on 15-under-par for the tournament.

“There are 13 years of demons running around in my head and that’s a lot of demons to fight. It gets harder, but I feel that I’m a better player. I don’t think I can improve much on what happens on the range – where my game feels flawless – and I just need to bring that game to the golf course more often, I need to make that gap between the two smaller.”

What made the 31-year-old’s 10th European Tour victory even more special was that he did not play anywhere near his best over the weekend but was still able to do what was necessary to win.

“It was a struggle over the weekend, I was way off my best game, but to get it done, to manage my way around, keep the ball in play and grind it out, means I’d give my effort an A+, that’s a big achievement. Jack Nicklaus said he won many tournaments with his B or C game, and that’s what makes this win even more satisfying,” Schwartzel said.

Frenchmen Sebastien Gros and Benjamin Hebert were Schwartzel‘s closest challengers at the start of the final round, but they both fell back, Hebert only managing a level-par 72 to finish third on 10-under and Gros being derailed by successive double-bogeys on the third and fourth holes on his way to a 73 and fourth place on nine-under.

Instead it was the old boy, Gregory Bourdy, who flew the Tricolour highest as he surged into second place on 11-under-par with a 68. Things could have been very different if the 33-year-old hadn’t found the dreaded bunker left of the seventh green, from where he chipped into the water and ended with a six on the par-three.

Another Frenchman, Thomas Linard (70), finished in a tie for fifth on eight-under-par alongside Englishman Matt Ford (70) and Joost Luiten (71) of the Netherlands.

Jaco van Zyl, who fired a 64 for the lowest round of the day, and defending champion Branden Grace (71) were the next best South Africans, in a tie for eighth place on seven-under with Englishman Eddie Pepperell (68).

 

 

 



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