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Ken Borland

The services of his rolodex may not be required, but Homa’s eagle at 9 to win NGC will live long in the memory 0

Posted on November 12, 2023 by Ken

Max Homa of the United States with the trophy as he celebrates his four-shot victory in the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Gary Player CC on Sunday.
(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Max Homa probably won’t actually enlist the services of a rolodex when it comes to remembering his magnificent approach shot on the ninth hole at Gary Player Country Club on Sunday, but the winner of the Nedbank Golf Challenge left no doubt that his superb three-iron that led to a defining eagle will live long in his memory.

And also in the history of the tournament as Homa’s second from 240 yards landed 18 feet from the pin on the iconic ninth green and he rolled in the eagle putt. With Thorbjorn Olesen having just claimed his sixth birdie of the front nine to catch the American on 16-under-par, the eagle gave Homa a crucial two-shot buffer as the back nine beckoned.

“The second on the ninth was the shot of the tournament for me,” Homa said after clinching an impressive four-shot victory, his great final round of 66 taking him to 19-under-par.

“My coach [Mark Blackburn] always says I must have a rolodex of big moments to look back on and that was definitely one for the memory bank.

“I had a good lie in the semi-rough and a good number, and I hit a great three-iron. If you don’t get the ball very high in the air here then the elevation doesn’t help as much and it was a bit shorter than I wanted.

“But it was one of those shots you dream about and a really great time to hit a good shot. I was three-under at the time but still tied for the lead, which shows how impressively Thorbjorn played.

“I wanted to make a statement to myself and not back off. I didn’t need to play that shot because I was sharing the lead, but I knew I could make it. My caddy [Ben Marsh] said if I feel it then I must just go for it, and then I sunk a great putt,” Homa said.

The on-fire Olesen also birdied the par-five 10th hole from close range and the Dane was back level again when Homa bogeyed the par-four 11th, his approach being too far left and two chips being required to get on to the green.

But the class of the world number eight then shone bright as a beacon, almost like the giant star that is traditionally lit up on the hill overlooking Sun City as the festive season kicks into gear.

Olesen (-14) and Nicolai Hojgaard (-15) both missed key chances in the closing holes and Olesen surrendered second place to his compatriot when he double-bogeyed the 17th, missing a short putt for a five on the famous par-four, having found the fairway bunkers with his drive.

What Homa later described as a “humungous stroke of luck” saw his errant drive on the 14th hit a rules official’s cart parked on the pathway next to the fairway, preventing the ball from bouncing into the think Pilanesberg bush. He was able to par the par-five and then a seven-foot birdie on the 15th put Homa two ahead, and an unlikely birdie on the par-three 16th, when he rammed in a 38-foot putt, sealed the deal.

Fellow American Justin Thomas also shot a 66 on Sunday to soar up the leaderboard into fourth place on 12-under-par, while DP World Tour rookie Dan Bradbury finished fifth on 11-under, the rubble of three bogeys and a double-bogey on the par-four 11th being too much to sustain a challenge despite his six birdies.

The removal in recent times of American contenders from the Nedbank Golf Challenge – Jim Furyk being the last United States golfer to win in 2006 – has certainly taken some of the gloss off the tournament, but Homa was appreciative of the history of Africa’s Major and delighted to now be part of its legacy.

“I’m big into manifesting and there are some pretty big names on the plaques of all the winners around the ninth green – Seve Ballesteros and Ernie Els are greats of the game. So I was picturing my name on one of those plaques and to achieve that, especially straight after Tommy Fleetwood, who is one of my favourite people on the planet, is really special.

“I know Tommy really wanted to win three in a row, but he got us at the Ryder Cup and now I’ve got one on him,” a grinning Homa said.

International team have a mountain to climb after defections for countless millions of LIV rands 0

Posted on November 02, 2022 by Ken

The golfing world’s attention this week will be focused on the Presidents Cup, which gets underway at Quail Hollow in North Carolina on Thursday, with the International team, under the captaincy of South African Trevor Immelman, left with a mountain to climb against the United States.

America have won the last eight editions of the Presidents Cup and if that weight of history were not enough, the International team has been hard-hit by defections to LIV Golf.

While American players such as Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka have also joined the breakaway league, the United States still boast five players in the top-10 of the world golf rankings in their team.

The riches on offer in LIV Golf translate into an awfully large amount of Rand, so Immelman is right when he says the players he does have will all be very hungry to win, given that they have shown that their loyalties do not necessarily lie with money.

The Americans have won 11 of the 13 Presidents Cup tournaments, so the event desperately needs to avoid becoming an insipid one-horse race. There were signs of revival in the Presidents Cup for the International team in 2019 at Royal Melbourne under another South African captain, Ernie Els, and Immelman has made it clear he intends to build on what his compatriot put in place.

United States captain Davis Love will have to deal with his team being massive favourites, and can call on seven members of the squad that hammered Europe 19-9 in the last Ryder Cup.

It is, however, the youngest ever U.S. team to play in the Presidents Cup.

Immelman will field a record five Asian players in his line-up, with Christiaan Bezuidenhout the only South African as LIV golfers Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace are not eligible.

Australia’s Adam Scott and former Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama are the two senior International players who have considerable Presidents Cup experience.

But there are eight rookies in all in the Presidents Cup line-up.

Oosthuizen knows there is not much major golf left in him & would normally be sentimental favourite at St Andrews 0

Posted on August 22, 2022 by Ken

South Africa’s highest-ranked golfer Louis Oosthuizen knows there is not much major championship golf left in him and, as the Open Championship celebrates its 150th staging on the Old Course at St Andrews from Thursday, he would normally be a sentimental favourite.

Oosthuizen won the Open at St Andrews in 2010 and was the runner-up in a playoff loss there in 2015. That is one of his six second-placed finishes in majors, so he would be a popular winner, were it not for his controversial decision to join the rebel LIV Golf league.

The 39-year-old knows that this could be his last major championship. He has resigned from both the PGA Tour and Europe’s DP World Tour, looking to cut back on the amount of golf he plays. So LIV Golf with its limited schedule and guaranteed big prizemoney suits him perfectly, while he has retained his Sunshine Tour membership and could well play more often in South Africa than he has in recent years.

There are two other South African LIV golfers in the Open Championship field – Justin Harding and Shaun Norris – neither of whom would seem to have much chance of winning.

Harding seemed to have bounced back into form last weekend when he began the Scottish Open with a 65 – and then told the media he did not expect as much of a fuss to be made about LIV Golf as there was. Detractors will say it was karma as he then shot 74-77-72 to tumble down the leaderboard.

For others less jaded by earning millions on tour, just the opportunity to play a major championship on arguably the most-loved golf course on the planet is going to be a career-highlight.

Thriston Lawrence makes his major championship debut along with 17-year-old sensation Aldrich Potgieter, who won the British Amateur last month to qualify and will be the youngest player in the St Andrews field.

At the other end of the spectrum, the 52-year-old Ernie Els, a two-time Open champion, will fittingly be part of the 150th celebrations. He is loving life in America on the Champions [Senior] tour, but is not so enamoured with LIV Golf, calling it “silly-season golf”.

Amongst the other South Africans in the field, there is not much form to speak about for Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Dean Burmester, Dylan Frittelli, Garrick Higgo, Zander Lombard and Erik van Rooyen.

After the halcyon years between 1994 and 2012, when South Africans won nine major titles, there has been a drought lasting 44 championships with nothing.

Don’t bet on that changing this weekend, except if you are a believer in sporting fairytales.

Lee retirement & Ismail injury leaves 2 big holes, but great opportunities too 0

Posted on August 22, 2022 by Ken

The shock retirement of Lizelle Lee and the continued injury problems of Shabnim Ismail have left two big holes in the South African Women’s cricket team ahead of the first ODI against England in Northampton on Monday, but such misfortunes provide great opportunities for other players, captain Sune Luus said.

Opening batter Lee retired with immediate effect on Friday, with the ODI series against England mere days away, which can only have been disruptive to the Proteas’ plans.

Fast bowler Ismail, meanwhile, has still not fully recovered from the calf injury which ruled her out of the historic Test against England two weeks ago.

“Lizelle’s retirement came as a bit of a shock, but we all respect her decision, she has given eight years of service to her country and she has obviously got her reasons,” Luus said on Sunday.

“Shabnim is still recovering from her calf injury, but she will be ready to go soon. These are big losses, but they provide big opportunities. There are a lot of spots in the team coming up now.

“We will have a young top four, but they are all excited about what they can bring to the table. It’s a big opportunity for them, it’s the start of their careers and what they make of it is up to them.

“They have been phenomenal for us lately, putting crucial runs on the board. The work they’re doing behind the scenes is great to see. It’s the energy the team needs to go forward,” Luus said.

England, runners-up in the World Cup in the summer, are a top-class ODI outfit and Luus knows the batters will face a particularly tough test against an attack spearheaded by Sophie Ecclestone, the No.1 ranked bowler in women’s ODIs.

“Sophie is No.1 in the world for a reason, she can control the game and strike,” Luus said. “So we will just try to rotate off her, get as many runs as we can, without boosting her ego or giving her a sniff.

“If it’s a bad ball then we must put it away, but we don’t want to give her anything. England will come hard at us and we need to be consistent for longer periods.

“Our semi-final loss to them at the World Cup puts in perspective how much we want to win this series. We had a lot of opportunities in that semi-final which we just did not take, otherwise the game could have gone a whole other way.

“We want to make sure we take every chance this time and not give them that satisfaction again,” Luus said.

·Play starts at 3pm SA time.

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