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Ken Borland



Beaming Manassero lights up the Glendower gloom with redemptive triumph 0

Posted on March 10, 2024 by Ken

A beaming Matteo Manessero holds the Jonsson Workwear Open trophy in the dark at Glendower Golf Club after his first DP World Tour triumph in nearly 11 years.
Photo: Tyrone Winfield/Sunshine Tour

Matteo Manassero’s beaming smile lit up the gloom at Glendower Golf Club on Sunday evening, almost shining as brightly as the not-so-distant lightning strikes as the Italian won the Jonsson Workwear Open by three strokes to win for the first time on the DP World Tour since May 2013.

Manassero had every reason to be ecstatic, considering the journey he has traversed. And while a three-strokes win sounds like an easy victory, his triumph was as dramatic as they come with the 30-year-old having to conquer not only a large chasing pack but also the weather. Manassero had just gone into a one-stroke lead with a 15-foot birdie on the 16th hole when play was suspended due to the threat of lightning. After a two-and-a-half hour delay, he returned to complete the job in near-darkness and with plenty of thunder still around Glendower.

His finish was just as thunderous as Manassero went birdie-birdie to close with four birdies in a row, posting 26-under-par after a 66 in the final round. It was what was needed to hold off the staunch challenge of Thriston Lawrence (63), Shaun Norris (68) and Jordan Smith (68), who tied for second on 23-under.

To understand the magnitude of Manassero’s achievement, one has to know where he has been. The world’s top amateur in 2009, he broke a host of records for the youngest to achieve certain landmarks and in 2010 he became the youngest ever winner on the European Tour when he won the Castello Masters in Valencia aged 17 years and 188 days.

In May 2013 he won the PGA Championship at Wentworth for his fourth title and entered the top-30 in the world rankings, all before he turned 21.

And then his career nose-dived. By the end of 2018 he had lost his European Tour card and ended up on the Alps Tour, two levels down.

He gave up pro golf for a while but then won on the Alps Tour in 2020 and made his way to the Challenge Tour. He won twice last year, opening up a return to the main DP World Tour. On Sunday at Glendower, his redemption was complete.

“It is the best day of my life,” Manassero said as lightning flashed behind his head on the 18th green. “It’s been a crazy journey and I’m so incredibly happy to be here holding this trophy. It feels like it was written somewhere, to finish with those birdies.

“Glendower will stay in my heart forever and I just feel incredible right now, it’s really difficult to put it into words, but I am very proud after what I have been through. I don’t want to think about the tough times now, but there is a lot of emotion.

“Forty minutes ago we were almost coming back tomorrow to finish, so there has been a lot of tension. But I am so happy to be feeling these emotions again out on the golf course. It’s strange, we live for these emotions that take us out of our comfort zone and are difficult to handle,” Manassero said.

The par-three 15th hole was where Manassero’s winning surge began, moments after Lawrence had eagled the 17th to go into the lead on 23-under. But it was also where his challenge looked as if it might have been headed for a watery grave as his tee shot just cleared the water it was heading for, leaving him with a 12-foot birdie putt which he nailed.

“On 15 that could have been in the water. I just tried to hit an easy six-iron, but in golf you cannot predict anything. Sometimes a shot that doesn’t feel great leads to the birdie opportunity that changes everything. But that was more than two-and-a-half hours ago and I have been through a lot of emotion since then!”

Before the weather delay, the co-sanctioned tournament with the Sunshine Tour seemed inexorably headed for a fascinating finish. Manassero admitted that his many challengers were in his thoughts.

“The guys behind me on the leaderboard were playing some incredible golf. Every time I looked at the leaderboard, there was a different guy and more birdies. There was always someone chasing me.”

And Manassero himself was chasing a DP World Tour victory of enormous personal magnitude. Having fallen into the trap of chasing results and outcomes, instead of focusing on process, during his first career as a professional golfer, the product of Verona also admitted that, of course, he had thoughts of winning right through the final round.

“There’s always a bit of back-of-forth in your mind, that is normal. But you also try and think other thoughts, really anything that is positive, things that I say to myself to help me play more freely. But to think about the result is normal, just not constantly because then it becomes really hard to express yourself and hit the ball straight,” Manassero explained.

While Lawrence and Norris led the South African challenge, Oliver Bekker was also a member of the chasing pack, a birdie on the 17th putting him one shot off the lead. But the 39-year-old then hit his approach on the 18th into the water next to the green, finishing with a double-bogey that left him in a tie for sixth on 21-under-par.

Comment: Who wins and who loses in great ‘merger’ 0

Posted on June 07, 2023 by Ken

Rory McIlroy is probably feeling like he has been thrown under the bus.

by Mike Green

There will be more rubbish spoken about this than there will be at a conspiracy theorists’ convention. But in the end, neither of the protagonists in the great golf culture war can with any certainty at all claim to be the winners with this great ‘merger’.

The PGA Tour and their ‘strategic partners’, the DP World Tour, have climbed into bed with the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund. The PIF was the monetary force behind LIV Golf, so, naturally, all the headlines are that the PGA Tour and LIV Golf are ‘merging’. In truth, there appears to be much still to be worked out. So it’s not entirely clear what the merger entails.

Reading and re-reading the press releases, and watching the ‘interview’ video of Keith Pelley of the DP World Tour (it was patently and painfully staged), and the MSNBC interview of the PGA Tour’s Jay Monahan and PIF’s Yasir Al-Rumayyan, there is not a single word about the continued existence of LIV in any shape at all after its 2023 season.

To quote Eamon Lynch (I realise that doing so might not sit well with some people, but so be it): “If this were a genuine victory for LIV’s concept, the announcement would have featured Greg Norman, the league’s chief executive and propagandist. Instead, he was not mentioned. Still, not the first man disappeared after his utility for the Saudis concluded.”

Of course, Norman’s is not the only ‘big’ name conspicuous by its absence from the announcement. If ever anyone went out on a limb (forgive the expression in this Saudi-soaked context) for his cause, it was Rory McIlroy. Quite what this sudden rapprochement has done to him can only be imagined. And as the cosying up between Monahan and Al-Rumayyan appears to have been about seven weeks in the making, perhaps it is no surprise that McIlroy slow-marched his way through two turgid performances in the Masters and the PGA Championship. And withdrew from an ‘elevated’ PGA Tour event, the virtues of which he himself had so evangelically extolled. His career might have looked very different had he not taken on himself the leadership role – or was it forced on him? – in the battle against the godless LIV. Someone owes him something that will be, at very least, an apology.

How will all of this kissing and making up change the face of golf? It would appear that the long-ballyhooed ‘global schedule’ might, at last, make an appearance, at least in rudimentary form, from 2024.

In that global schedule, it seems probable that there will be a nod to LIV’s alleged ‘selling point’, the team concept. If it takes place in a small window – say from September to December – Ernie Els will feel vindicated for his suggestion for accommodating Norman’s fantasies (I believe he might have used the term ‘hit and giggle’) in the ‘silly season’ before the end of the year.

It also seems probable that several of the DP World Tour’s events will enjoy some sort of elevated status, both in terms of prize-money and in having the week to themselves, or at least unchallenged by a PGA Tour event of remotely similar status.

Lost between those broad brushstrokes is the position of a circuit like the Sunshine Tour. There is hard work to be done to make the co-sanctioned tournaments it has with the DP World Tour retain a status that justifies the interests of the newly-born behemoth. Perhaps the PIF people will pour some of their money into a tournament like the South African Open to help it retain its status as one of the prestigious titles around the world. Perhaps the lure of increased visibility on a global stage will entice local commercial support too – and not just for the flagship of the local schedule.

As for the players that have been caught in the crossfire, the only winners seem to be those who kept their powder relatively dry. Brooks Koepka, for example, will emerge from this with his reputation and ability to compete at the highest level (that’s neither LIV nor the PGA Tour, if you were wondering) intact. Koepka has never been much of a stoker of animosities – other than with Bryson DeChambeau, and wasn’t that fun? He stayed true to himself and his belief that the LIV jump was of personal benefit to him on a number of levels, and he didn’t waste his energy on the pettiness that characterised much of the conversation about the great divide. There are one or two others like him, but they haven’t shown much yet. Much golf, that is.

The most vocal of the anti-establishment critics have been players who were already in the process of riding off into the sunset. Many of them will stay on the edges in the new dispensation, and probably remain outside consideration for Ryder Cup captaincies, for instance. Their golfing relevance is in any case tending towards the PGA Tour Champions, or the Legends Tour, now.

To their credit, the South Africans playing in LIV this season have remained admirably uncommunicative about their situations. But it will be good to see them able to participate in the mainstream again. All of them have international success in their futures, and now, perhaps, that can be achieved without the wretched dogfight that was the golf landscape over the last two years.

With details conspicuously absent from what we know so far, it’s premature to celebrate anything just yet. But it does seem sure that LIV Golf as we have come to know it is winding down.

First published on the SA Tour Golf website – https://satourgolf.co.za/2023/06/06/comment-who-wins-and-who-loses-in-great-merger/

Tremendous Bachem makes it seem like Euro Tour wins are not retailing for much these days 0

Posted on March 26, 2023 by Ken

Nick Bachem is all smiles after his dominant victory in the Jonsson Workwear Open at Steyn City.

The way Nick Bachem cruised to victory in the Jonsson Workwear Open at Steyn City on Sunday, it may have seemed that DP World Tour titles are not retailing for much these days.

But don’t be fooled by the ease with which the 23-year-old German soared to 24-under-par and a four-stroke victory with a tremendous final-round 64; this was high-quality golf overpowering a field boasting plenty of strength in depth.

Having won his DP World Tour card for the first time at qualifying school in November, Bachem claimed his first title in just his 10th start in the 2022/23 season. The engaging youngster admitted that he did not expect to be winning tournaments quite so soon.

“It’s just amazing, this is just my 10th start. I believed I could win, but just to be playing here is actually pretty overwhelming. I don’t really understand what has happened over the last couple of days, in fact over the last year-and-a-half,” a beaming Bachem said.

“Today was just my day. I thought it was going to be super-close, but I was still chilled and so relaxed. But then on the 15th I saw a scoreboard and saw I was four ahead. And then I got super-nervous! I knew I just needed three pars and I would win, but suddenly that felt so hard!

“But I had to tell myself that it is just golf I am playing and a missed putt or something is not the end of the world. And then it was a nice finish.

“Getting my tour card is always in mind when I’m playing, and now I’ve got the job done pretty early. Now I can just enjoy playing all the events and letting all the experiences sink in.

“It feels unreal right now, it’s definitely a dream come true. I felt it would take more time,” Bachem said.

Beginning the final day one stroke behind leader and fellow German Alexander Knappe, Bachem was struck with terrible bad luck right from the outset, a decent opening tee-shot ending in a plugged lie. He had to take a drop and did exceptionally well to still get a par-four.

From there he reeled off four birdies in the next five holes, which sent him soaring to the top of the leaderboard. Four more birdies on the back nine sealed the deal, the second-placed South African duo of Zander Lombard (65) and Hennie du Plessis (68) left in his wake on 20-under-par.

Another South African, Ockie Strydom, finished in a tie for fourth on 19-under with Scotsman Ewen Ferguson.

The genial Bachem showed he has the bottle to win on the main tour and he said making sure he enjoyed himself on the course was a vital part of handling the pressure.

“I was leading a tournament for the first time a couple of weeks ago in the Kenya Open and I just wanted to win so badly, I wanted to shoot course records, and I ended up nearly finishing last.

“But yesterday I was really calm, I just felt like if I finished top-20 I would be happy. And then my goal today was to just enjoy myself and enjoy as much as possible having the chance to win.

“It’s definitely something I have to keep telling myself because it is not always easy out there. But I just reminded myself that I am in sunny South Africa while it is winter in Germany, playing on a beautiful course. So life is actually pretty good and you need to try and remember that in the tough times.

“I don’t believe there is anything better that I could be doing, playing golf just brings me so much fun and joy. Even when there are bad weeks, it is nice to be able to enjoy them as well, because that is when you learn. In Kenya I learnt so much and without that experience I would have had no chance of winning here,” Bachem said.

It’s been a crazy 18 months for Bachem and now he has even more exciting possibilities in store to look forward to.

“When I was still an amateur, I played a few events on the Pro Golf mini-tour and then I turned pro. Playing on the Challenge Tour in 2022 was pretty good, but I just missed winning my DP World Tour card. Qualifying School was then a real rollercoaster, I was four-over after the first round but then shot 10-under. Just a couple of months later, here I am having won my card for the next two years. So I am pretty excited about the future,” Bachem said.

In his immediate future, there is a trip to France next week. Bachem does not just enjoy riding the waves of fortune and misfortune in the golfing world, he is also a keen surfer of literal waves.

Between the Kenya Open and the Jonsson Workwear Open, Bachem spent time at South Africa’s surfing mecca, Jeffrey’s Bay.

“My family used to go to the west coast of France for holidays on the Atlantic and I started to get into surfing since I was young. I’ve been doing it more and more since I turned 18. Now I can drive a car and I spent six weeks in Portugal recently in a campervan. Maybe there is a career in surfing after golf for me … ”

Blair Atholl the longest course in Euro Tour history & a ‘Driver-fest’ according to Frittelli 0

Posted on March 08, 2023 by Ken

The Blair Atholl Golf and Country Estate course will play at 7462 metres for the South African Open starting on Thursday, the longest in DP World Tour history, and it will be a “Driver-fest” according to leading local contender Dylan Frittelli.

The 32-year-old Frittelli is one of a host of South Africans who generally compete abroad who have returned for the national open, the second oldest in the game, and still considered a hugely prestigious title.

Frittelli, who competes on the PGA Tour, is known as a solid and lengthy driver of the ball, so he was looking forward to tackling Blair Atholl for the first time.

“It’s what I expected – a long course with wide fairways,” Frittelli said after his pro-am round on Wednesday. “It will be a Driver-fest and I’m just going to try and hit the ball as long and as straight as I can.

“It’s a cliche but that and making some putts, on greens that have a lot more character than I was expecting, literally defines this course.

“I think we will be hitting a lot more shots from 140-190 metres on the par-fours, but if it stays dry and hot then we’ll still be hitting the ball 340 off the tee.

“So I think it’s going to be a good mix and I would urge the organisers not to push the tees forward. We don’t want 23-under winning the SA Open. And I’ve got to win the SA Open before my career is over,” Frittelli said.

Charl Schwartzel is another who is extremely determined to win the SA Open for the first time after some near misses, and he used to live on the Blair Atholl Estate, so he knows the course intimately. He and other returning South Africans like Branden Grace, George Coetzee, Thriston Lawrence and Shaun Norris are always a threat in these co-sanctioned events.

Defending champion Danie van Tonder looked in good form in last week’s Joburg Open but his putter just refused to play along, but a new host course for the SA Open could well throw up a new champion.

Dean Burmester seems to always be contending somewhere in the world these days and he is back, hungry and equipped with one of the biggest drives in the field.

“Blair Atholl is loooong, that was my first impression,” Burmester said. “There will be some positional stuff required and it lends itself to good mid and long iron play, but a lot of it is going to come down to long-hitting.

“The bunkers are often 300-310 metres from the tee and you need to be able to cover that in your game or it’s going to be a long week for you. If you’re short of that, then you better pack your fairway woods and metal hybrids.”

Wilco Nienaber is always up there with the longest drivers on tour and was in contention at the Joburg Open, but Louis de Jager is perhaps the dark horse to watch. He is a quality driver of the ball and his fifth place in the Joburg Open was his fourth top-10 finish since August.

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    John 15:16 – “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

    Our Christian experience begins when the Holy Spirit starts working in our imperfect lives. An inexplicable restlessness and a feeling that nothing can give you the satisfaction you yearn for, could be the Spirit working in you.

    Even when God calls you and chooses you to serve him, there may be inner conflict and confusion because you are not always willing to do what God is asking of you.

    But this inner struggle is part of spiritual life … Commit yourself to God and open yourself to the inflowing of the Holy Spirit.

    It is by great grace that you were chosen by God to serve him and to live to the honour and glory of his name. Surrender unconditionally to the Lord and you will discover that your life gains new meaning and purpose.



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