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Ken Borland

Prinsloo does enough to retain his lead 0

Posted on September 12, 2022 by Ken

KHOLWANE, Eswatini – Eleven successive pars and then two birdies coming in were enough for Jaco Prinsloo to retain his lead after the second round of the FNB Eswatini Nkonyeni Challenge at the Nkonyeni Lodge and Golf Estate on Friday, and the 32-year-old will take a two-shot lead into Saturday’s final round.

Following his brilliant 65 on the opening day, Prinsloo did not find the going as easy on Friday as his ball-striking was not as good and he battled to get the ball close to the hole. He showed wonderful patience, however, and kept grinding away, starting his round on the 10th and registering nine pars before also playing the first and second holes in regulation.

All that determination finally paid off on the par-four third with his first birdie, and he picked up another shot on the par-five eighth.

“It was definitely harder for me today and I just did not hit the ball as close to the hole as I did on the first day, so I didn’t have as many birdie opportunities,” Prinsloo said after his 70 took him to nine-under-par.

“It was good to be bogey-free though because this is not the easiest course. But it’s still a weird place to be with 11 pars in a row. It’s good but not so good.

“It meant I was still playing solid golf and in control of the ball, and I’m definitely happy to still be in front,” Prinsloo said.

Herman Loubser was two behind Prinsloo after the first round, but he could sadly only shoot a level-par 72 on Friday and has been overtaken by CJ du Plessis, who roared into second place with a 68 that took him to seven-under-par overall.

Loubser has slipped into a tie for third on five-under with Jean Hugo (68), Rhys West (69), Martin Rohwer (68) and Ricky Hendler (71).

“I’m not going to change anything,” Prinsloo said of his approach to the final round of the R1 million event. “I’m going to take it as just another round and the game-plan will stay the same.

“You just have to keep your head down and see where you land up.”

A contingent of 11 Saffas tackle PGA layout that favours top-class approach play 0

Posted on June 20, 2022 by Ken

A contingent of 11 South African golfers will tackle a daunting Southern Hills layout from Thursday in the PGA Championship, the second Major of the year, with the 7556-yard course favouring those with top-class approach play.

Tilted greens with fast run-off areas that repel wayward approach shots, combined with heavy bunkering, make for a difficult challenge that will put a premium on accurate approach play and good putting.

Erik van Rooyen is the leading South African on the PGA Tour in terms of the Shots Gained on Approach statistics but he has a love-hate relationship with the PGA Championship. His best finish in a Major was his tied-eighth finish in the 2019 event at Bethpage Black, but last year at Kiawah Island he smashed a tee-box marker on his way to missing the cut.

Although he withdrew for unexplained reasons from last weekend’s Byron Nelson Classic, Van Rooyen is South Africa’s second-highest ranked golfer at No.61 in the world.

Louis Oosthuizen (15th) is still South Africa’s highest-ranked performer, but a cloud of uncertainty hangs over a golfer who has perennially flattered to deceive at the Majors, having six runners-up finishes to go with a solitary win – at the 2010 Open Championship.

Oosthuizen has been strongly linked with the breakaway LIV Golf Invitational Series backed by Saudi Arabia, which starts in June, so this could be a swansong at the Majors for the 39-year-old.

Christiaan Bezuidenhout is third in the rankings amongst South Africans at 67th and also good around and on the greens. He has been consistent, making 13 of 15 cuts on the PGA Tour this year, without being a regular contender.

For a real dark horse, look no further than world number 68 Shaun Norris, who has been the best putter on the DP World Tour this year and strong in his approach play as well. This week could be a great opportunity for him to improve on his Major record of five missed cuts in seven events, with a best finish of tied-61st in the 2018 Open.

The other South Africans in the field – Justin Harding, Garrick Higgo, Dean Burmester, Oliver Bekker, Charl Schwartzel, Danie van Tonder and Branden Grace – can all be considered long shots, although Southern Hills was the venue for two memorable Southern African Major triumphs with Nick Price winning the 1994 PGA Championship by a lengthy six shots and Retief Goosen triumphing in a nervewracking playoff for the 2001 U.S. Open.

Not only is Southern Hills long, but it will be playing to par-70 and there are normally tricky winds to deal with in the rolling hills of Oklahoma’s Green Country, as well as a creek that runs throughout the course. It requires precise planning and execution, especially on the lay-ups, and the winning score is not expected to be much under-par.

Bulls team comprising 11 Boks pushed all the way by Griquas; here’s what they learnt 0

Posted on October 13, 2020 by Ken

A Bulls team comprising 11 Springboks was pushed all the way by a Griquas side without a single international in their Super Rugby Unlocked game at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria at the weekend, with the home team eventually coming back from deficits of 10-0 in the first half and 18-10 early in the second to win 30-23.

As Griquas coach Scott Mathie pointed out afterwards, even when you take the Springboks out of the equation, the Bulls have about R30 million rand more to spend on players than the minnows from Kimberley, and yet it was the visitors who handed out many lessons on Saturday night.

Here are the main things new coach Jake White would have learnt about the Bulls from the tough encounter:

There is enough character and skill in the team when they are under pressure

Having played half-an-hour of poor rugby, wasting several chances, the Bulls did not panic and managed to go into halftime all-square at 10-10. Similarly, after conceding eight points early in the second half, they stuck to the revised game-plan in the second half and closed out a vital win.

“There was good character shown by the team, to be 10-0 down after 35 minutes and to be able to go into the changeroom at 10-10 was a good character test. Credit to Griquas for stopping our momentum, the way they defended and chased everything showed a lot of fight and spirit. I would have preferred we played like we did against the Sharks and got five points, but you see different things under pressure.

“I don’t really know a lot of the players very well and I got time to see the players and how they react under pressure tonight. Fortunately we were able to win the little battles, those championship moments, and we scored 30 points despite not playing well. Everybody wants to see the perfect game and maybe some people expected that tonight, but it’s not always going to happen,” White said.

The Bulls, for all their attacking potential, have to ‘build an innings’, they need to be more direct first before trying to exploit space out wide

The Bulls backline again looked threatening with ball in hand and some ambitious rugby was played in the first half. But they were guilty of going wide too quickly and players were often isolated and turned over, while not using the forwards to punch holes first and get opponents on the floor, meant Griquas were able to flood the breakdown, winning numerous turnovers.

In the second half, the Bulls showed more patience and the likes of Marco van Staden, Jason Jenkins and replacement eighthman Elrigh Louw were able to get in behind the defending side.

“What was important in the second half was that from playing side-to-side in the first half, we were more direct. We were able to get the forwards with the ball under their arm, Jason Jenkins burst through, so did Elrigh Louw and Marco van Staden had a couple of good runs. We realised after the first half that we had to be more direct in our structure.

“So I told them at the break to be more direct, not to play so much touch rugby in the middle of the field. I was very happy with the set-pieces, we got enough ball and our forwards were relatively strong. I’m happy that we found a way to win,” White said.

The Bulls need to work on their breakdown strategy and need to commit more cleaners on their own ball

The Bulls conceded seven turnovers in the first half, mostly because of isolated players simply being rucked off the ball by the willing Griquas pack. Not enough attention was paid to the clean-out by the Bulls, who wanted players on their feet, but perhaps erred too much in that direction and did not focus enough on ensuring they secured the ball at the breakdown first.

“We didn’t have much rhythm and at times Griquas got away with it at the breakdown, but winning 16 penalties to eight conceded shows we could not complain. Because we had such a good shape against the Sharks two weeks ago, we probably thought things would be a lot easier at the breakdown. We probably should have put one or two more players in early on.

“We did not do enough early on to secure our ball and that gave them a sniff. We were probably a bit seduced by the last game and how easily we got quick ball, so tonight we didn’t think we needed to go in there and fetch it. And the side carrying the ball definitely wasn’t rewarded as much tonight, at one stage we had 65% possession and we were still getting penalised. But we showed we can win ugly, sometimes it’s not easy and you have to do that,” White said.

Morne Steyn did not have his greatest outing but he remains one of the best game-managers around

White admitted that Steyn did not have his best game, but the way the Bulls dominated territory in the final quarter was crucial. Possession was fairly equal throughout the game, but Griquas were forced into trying to play too much rugby in their own half, largely thanks to Steyn’s tactical kicking.

“We didn’t manage the game well enough and we need to be better at that,” Mathie admitted. “Our exits from our own half should have been better and we will be working on our decision-making. We sent too much time in our own half and didn’t exit as well as we should have. Just before halftime, we should have controlled the scrum better and then we would have gone into the second half in the lead.

“Those are the small moments that matter and you need clear heads at those times, you need to eliminate risk. We just needed a few better decisions but we’ve taken a point at Loftus and we will take a lot of energy from that and that we were able to win this game, we did enough to win,” Mathie said.

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