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Ken Borland

Fichardt birdies the last for a winning 64 … & is grateful for the return of the butterflies 0

Posted on August 25, 2020 by Ken

Darren Fichardt birdied the last hole for a six-under-par 64 and a one-stroke victory in the Betway Championship at Killarney Country Club on Friday and said he was grateful for the return of butterflies in the stomach after five months without any competitive golf.

Fichardt’s 64 was the lowest round of the tournament and saw him sign for a three-under-par total of 207, one ahead of fellow veteran Ulrich van den Berg, who himself had a birdie putt on 18 for the tie and a playoff, but it shaved the hole from 12 feet out.

The 45-year-old Fichardt holed out from eight feet on the last for his sixth birdie of the day and his 18th Sunshine Tour title as the Betway Championship launched the new Rise Up Series that marks a return for professional golf.

“I’m very happy to win and it’s just awesome to have those competitive golf butterflies in the stomach again after five months on the couch. Going into the final round six shots behind it’s just a case of whatever happens, happens. It’s a case of all or nothing. My tee-shot on 18 was a bit short, so I had to keep my approach under the trees, it was a bit low, but it helped because with a high floater you never know how it’s going to bounce.

“At the start of the day I was missing short putts for birdie and getting frustrated. With the scoring system now after Lockdown you can see all the scores all the time and I saw how my good friend Jaco van Zyl was burning up the course with a 65. So I thought I better start getting some birdies and to get three straight around the turn was good because this is a tough course,” Fichardt said after claiming R95 100 for the win.

Overnight leader Alex Haindl fell down the final classification with a two-over-par 72, finishing in a tie for third. Two birdies on the front nine kept him neck-and-neck with Anton Haig, who eagled the fifth, but successive bogeys at the seventh and eighth saw Haindl slip and he came home in 37.

Haig collapsed on the back nine with five bogeys and a double-bogey on the par-three 17th when he was short of the green, but struggled to get out of a grass bunker.

Jaco Prinsloo and Ruan Korb shared third place with Haindl on one-under-par. Prinsloo was in a share of the lead but bogeyed the last two holes.

Fichardt said it was a brutally tough return to action for the Sunshine Tour golfers, likening the course, which was dry with greens like ice-rinks, to a U.S. Open layout.

“It was frustrating because it’s a short track but the greens were tricky with the lines difficult to read and a lot of short putts missed. It was like playing in the U.S. Open. The first day was really cold and windy and I would have been happy with eight-over never mind three-over-par. The second round [70] was a bit better and then today was much better. “I realised today that you just have to get the ball into play here, you have to position yourself. It was definitely experience that carried me through today, after I was a bit more aggressive in the first two rounds,” Fichardt said.

Killarney CC puts the pros through the mill again; only 4 golfers under par 0

Posted on August 24, 2020 by Ken

Killarney Country Club once again put the Sunshine Tour’s top pros through the mill on Thursday, with only four golfers able to enjoy the comfort of being under par after the second round of the Betway Championship, the opening event of the Rise Up Series that marks the return to action after the Covid-19 Lockdown.

Top of the pile was Sunshine Tour veteran Alex Haindl, who shot a marvellous 67 on Thursday to go into the final round on three-under-par, one stroke ahead of another stalwart in Anton Haig. Two other very experienced campaigners in Ulrich van den Berg and Adilson da Silva are the other golfers under par, after they both finished on one-under after shooting 69s.

Although conditions were warmer and there was just a comfortable breeze blowing, the 103-man field once again struggled with the hard and fast greens, putting a premium on accuracy off the tee on the tight, tree-lined layout.

Haindl, rebuilding his career after a couple of back surgeries, was relieved to be playing well in his 20th season on the Sunshine Tour.

“It’s just nice to be playing again, you don’t know where you game is when you’re just practising at home because you’re not under the gun and you can’t see where your game needs to be better. Since my last surgery last year it just felt like I couldn’t get going, I wasn’t moving the way I like, but today was a bit better. The game was a bit neater today, I kept it together better.

“My short game was a bit sharper today as I got more used to the dry fairways and firm greens. I was just trying to miss in the right places and made a couple of good saves. Luckily I wasn’t playing too early in the morning, although it was a bit windy. But as the weather heats up, the ball flies further almost immediately – it’s like one shot suddenly goes 6-7 metres further,” Haindl said after his round which included just a solitary dropped shot at the par-three 17th.

The youngsters that are used to bombing the ball miles off the tee seem to be losing this particular arms race, given the veterans in the top four, but there are still some fresh faces very much in contention to claim the first Sunshine Tour title on offer since Lockdown.

Rookie Ruan Korb is just three strokes back on level-par, while former amateur sensation Jayden Schaper showed once again that he has the mettle, even though he is still in his teens, to mix it with the men as he lay in a threatening position just four strokes back after solid rounds of 73 and 68.

Keith Horne is with him on one-over-par and he clearly has all the weapons to win on Friday, having claimed nine Sunshine Tour titles. First-round leader Dylan Mostert slipped back into a tie for ninth after a 75 on Thursday, but he is just five shots adrift of the lead.

Haindl said patience and accuracy off the tee would be key attributes to win on Friday.

“The par-fives are quite important but it’s very difficult to stop your second shot on the green, so there are no gimmies. If you drive decently then you can have a lot of wedges coming in, so if you’re swinging okay then you can give yourself a few chances. But it’s very tough, you need to stay patient and accept the outcome if you’ve done your best, if you had a good yardage and a good swing.

“My game-plan was pretty decent, I kept it in play most of the time and gave myself chances. In order to win tomorrow, I just have to play better than the other guys!” Haindl said.

Mostert well-served by his irons … and afternoon draw 0

Posted on August 24, 2020 by Ken

Dylan Mostert was well-served by his irons as he claimed a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Betway Championship at Killarney Country Club on Wednesday, but he was quick to acknowledge he was favoured by being able to play the majority of his round in the afternoon.

The morning field who marked the return of Sunshine Tour professional golf in South Africa, with the first tournament of the Rise Up Series, were greeted by brutal conditions – freezing temperatures and a four-club wind that combined to make the greens play like ice-rinks. Level-par was the best score anyone in the morning field managed.

Come the afternoon, the sun began shining more brightly and the wind died down. Not that Killarney was playing easy then either, and Mostert’s three-under-par 67 was the best score of the day, one better than the 68s shot by Dylan Naidoo, Ruan Korb and Albert Venter.

Michael Hollick, Wallie Coetsee, Makhetha Mazibuko and Anton Haig were on one-under, while seasoned Sunshine Tour pros such as Keith Horne, Jaco Ahlers, Adilson da Silva, Danie van Tonder and Ulrich van den Berg were among the golfers who finished on level-par.

“I hit a lot of greens because as soon as you are far away from the holes here you don’t have much chance. And I only hit three or four Drivers, I used my irons to plot my way around. I have game-plans for both winds and if it blows the opposite away tomorrow I can probably use more Drivers. But you have to be really careful where you leave the ball as you have to be on the right side of the greens.

“And it was a helluva lot easier in the afternoon. I heard it was very cold in the morning and the greens were probably a lot firmer. It was a bit windy all day, but no more than a two-club wind this afternoon, so nothing overly bad. But it must have been really hard to stop the ball on the greens this morning. It will be a lot colder tomorrow when I play so I’m going to have to grind it out,” Mostert said after his round.

Venter had a share of the lead until a bogey at the ninth hole, his last, when he missed the green on the left and was left with no shot for par. But considering that it was the 24-year-old’s first ever Sunshine Tour round it was a top-class effort.

He started on the 10th and made par and then immediately dispelled any nerves with a tremendous run of four successive birdies.

“For my first event I’m really happy with my day’s work because I had quite a few nerves. But I had a brilliant start, a really good tee-shot down 10 and then on 11 I holed my shot from the greenside bunker so that was a real boost of confidence. I just hit the ball well, got it close to the hole and made good putts. It was just a matter of planning every shot.

“I had a few bad breaks on my back nine and it’s a tight course, hitting fairways and greens is the key. And the greens were fast so you need to be close to the hole and make your two-putts. You have to figure out when to attack on greens like these, you can’t go for everything. Plus I had the better side of the draw. So I’m starting on the front nine tomorrow and I know I must not be over-aggressive,” Venter said.

Country’s top golfers going to Killarney CC to restart the pro game 0

Posted on August 19, 2020 by Ken

The country’s top golfers are going to Killarney Country Club on Wednesday morning to restart the professional game with the Betway Championship, and Danie van Tonder, given the way he finished last season, is going to be one of the favourites to claim the Sunshine Tour’s first title after the Covid-19 Lockdown.

Van Tonder finished in the top-10 five times in January and February, lifting him to second place in the final order of merit. With winner JC Ritchie not playing this week, the 29-year-old from Boksburg is looking to maintain that sort of consistency. But he is going to have to rein in his usual aggressive play a little to succeed on a course like Killarney which requires more strategy than power.

“I had three months off which gave me time to work on things, try and fix some things to make me more consistent. When you’re playing week-after-week, you can’t really change things and it takes like 21 days to teach your body something new. But we start over again now, I’ve lost some weight and I’m stronger, so I’m really looking forward to getting out there again.

“Killarney has lots of doglegs, water hazards and ditches, so it might not be a long course, but it is difficult. You’ve got to get your lay-ups right and pitch-and-putt very well. I’m normally very attacking, but you can’t be too aggressive going over the trees, and there are so many of them. Plus the greens are firm, so if you’re pitching from the rough you’re going to be in trouble,” Van Tonder told The Citizen on Tuesday.

For Sunshine Tour stalwart Jaco Ahlers it will be business as usual though, as the 37-year-old veteran of 268 tournaments looks to build on one of his most successful seasons ever, finishing third on the order of merit for 2019/20.

“I’m really looking forward to playing competitive golf again after the longest layoff in my career. We’ve had time to get ready and the game is pretty decent. It was in a good space when we stopped playing and I’ve just worked on a little swing feeling. But I’m very surprised how good the game feels, I don’t feel I’ve lost a lot. But it’s just the mentality of competitive golf that has to come back.

“It’s a different mindset to the little money games you have at home, you need to get those tournament golf feelings back and sometimes it comes quickly and sometimes it doesn’t. And Killarney is always a really good, demanding layout on which you’ve got to place the ball in certain positions to have a shot in. You’ve really got to think your way around and you can’t just bomb Driver,” Ahlers said.

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