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Ken Borland

Grace passes a long day with banter & not letting his cold putter get to him 0

Posted on February 13, 2023 by Ken

Branden Grace passed a long Saturday on the Gary Player Country Club course by bantering with his caddy and not letting his cold putter get to him, and his relaxed approach worked as he will go into the final round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge just one stroke off the lead.

Due to the torrential rain on Friday, Grace had to complete 11 holes of his second round on Saturday morning, birdieing the ninth hole and then four of the first five holes on the back nine to rapidly climb the leaderboard. Although he struck the ball beautifully in the third round on Saturday afternoon, he only made two birdies and had to settle for a one-under 71. But it worked in terms of consolidating his position, and he and fellow South African Thriston Lawrence will start Sunday’s final round just one behind Thomas Detry and Rasmus Hojgaard.

“I feel good and I’m hitting the ball really good, probably as well as I have ever hit it around here,” Grace, the 2017 Nedbank Golf Challenge champion, said. “But I just could not get the pace of the greens.

“Every putt was probably a foot out, and it was probably because there was a bit of drizzle every now and then on the greens. But I will keep the same process in the final round.

“I have a mate on the bag and we talked a lot of nonsense out there, but sometimes taking your mind off the golf puts your head in a good space. Like when I won here, I’ll just try and go bogey-free in the final round.

“There’s always someone who comes out with a six or seven-under score, but if I can shoot five or six-under then I will definitely have a shout. But there’s no pressure on me, I’ve won it before and I’m just enjoying life and my golf,” Grace said.

It is little wonder that the 34-year-old is relaxed because he took away R304 028 130 from the six LIV Golf events he completed.

Lawrence was another who walked away from the Gary Player Country Club on Saturday evening extremely satisfied with his work, a seven-under-par 65 which was the best score of the third round. Beginning on the 10th, he had a birdie-bogey start, but then reeled off three successive birdies from the 13th hole. He gained back-to-back shots on the 18th and first holes, and then capped an outstanding round with birdies on the sixth and ninth holes.

“From the first round, my tee-to-green play has probably been my best all year, but my putter just wasn’t there,” Lawrence said. “But I stayed calm and patient and started to sink a few putts today.

“It was probably my best ever round on this course, and I couldn’t have asked for better than to be a shot back in my first time playing the Nedbank Golf Challenge. So it is exciting times,” Lawrence said.

Van Tonder treads boldly to victory at squelchy SA Open 0

Posted on December 07, 2021 by Ken

The South African Open came to a thrilling conclusion at a squelchy Gary Player Country Club on Sunday with Daniel van Tonder holding off Oliver Bekker to claim the title by one stroke with a dramatic 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole.

Bekker and Van Tonder had been tied on nine-under-par, four strokes behind leader Justin Harding, at the end of the third round when it was completed on Sunday morning. While Van Tonder took control of proceedings with three birdies in four holes from the eighth to take a two-stroke lead, Bekker came with a late charge as he birdied the last three holes.

The seven-time Sunshine Tour winner was inches away from making eagle on the 18th when his 60-foot putt stopped just next to the hole. By then, Van Tonder was in the middle of the final fairway and knew he had to make birdie to win.

More drama was to come though as Van Tonder’s approach only just cleared the water, stopping right next to the yellow markers. He then duffed his chip way short, leaving him with a 25-foot putt for birdie and the win. Fortunately, Hennie du Plessis had a similar birdie putt just before him, which he made to finish third on 12-under-par.

Treading gently is not something the 30-year-old from Boksburg does often and Van Tonder stepped up and nailed the slightly curving putt with confidence.

“All I was thinking was just make the thing, give it a chance. The whole day I had been leaving putts pin-high or lipping out, so I just had to make sure I hit it,” Van Tonder said after his great final round of 65.

“If it goes in, I win, if it stays out then I’m in a playoff. And when it went in I just thought ‘Finally!’.

While Bekker played some amazing golf, chipping in three times on Sunday (making it five for the week), Van Tonder played some tremendous shots of his own.

On the water-lined eighth hole he made a 20-foot birdie putt after having to hit his approach with a mud ball from the rough, and then on the 10th he chipped in from the bank above the hole for another birdie. On the par-three 16th, his superb tee-shot was right on course for the hole and he was left with a five-footer for birdie.

“I’ve been seven and nine shots behind and won, I just play my own game, which is looking for birdie putts. I’m not a bad player you know, I can catch anyone,” Van Tonder said with a twinkle in his eye as he clutched the magnificent SA Open trophy.

Van Tonder’s conquest of the South African Open and arguably the country’s best course ends an epic couple of years for the idiosyncratic golfer.

Van Tonder spent 2020 dominating the Sunshine Tour, then spent six months of this year competing on the European Tour, where he won the Kenya Savannah Classic and finished 75th on the order of merit.

And now he is a South African Open champion.

“I’m very happy. It’s been a long, hard year, having to stay overseas for six months because of Covid. But I love this place, I love playing here and the SA Open is the special one, the second oldest tournament.

“So it’s a big thing to win. It means a lot. Watching others win it has looked so awesome, but now I can walk around and say I’m an SA Open champion,” Van Tonder said.

While the Boksburg golfer generally played extremely well in all four rounds, his 16-under-par total of 272 coming from rounds of 69 68 70 and 65, perhaps his most impressive characteristic was the steel he showed when under pressure.

Bekker’s three-straight birdies to finish left Van Tonder needing a birdie to win, but his approach on the 18th only just cleared the water. He then duffed his chip well short, leaving him with a daunting 25-foot putt to win.

Before those final-hole heroics, Van Tonder had managed to turn a mud-ball in the rough on the eighth, which many consider the toughest hole on which to keep your approach shot dry, into a 20-foot birdie and then chipped in for birdie from the bank above the 10th hole.

“When I was young, I was not the longest hitter so I had to chip and putt well. My short game is still not too bad,” Van Tonder smiled. “My mindset is to attack, hit the fairways and greens and then make the putts.

“The other guys know I have a saying: ‘I can smell blood in the air’. This game is something else because I struggled last week at the Joburg Open and then this week I had my normal game.

“Playing overseas with the best in the world, with all that experience you see that their games are the same. There’s no difference, it’s just mindsets,” Van Tonder said.

And Van Tonder is clearly mentally prepared to deal with whatever hardships he encounters on the course.

Coetzee rides wave of home support to win Tshwane Open 0

Posted on January 01, 2016 by Ken


George Coetzee rode a wave of huge home club support to shoot a five-under-par 65 and win the Tshwane Open by one stroke in a thrilling final round at Pretoria Country Club yesterday.

Coetzee began playing golf at the Waterkloof course and won his first tournament there as a 10-year-old, so the genial 28-year-old had plenty of support as he edged out Jacques Blaauw, who fired a tremendous 61, with a birdie on the 17th hole.

“I loved the fans, when I was growing up you dream about playing in front of galleries like that and the crowd just seemed to get bigger and bigger. There were hundreds of people following our group and I recognised a lot of them. I never thought, as a kid, that I’d be playing a European Tour event at my home club, so it’s unreal to win here,” Coetzee said after finishing on 14-under-par 266.

Coetzee was one of six golfers who shared the lead after the third round, but with Craig Lee (70), Adrian Otaegui (71), Wallie Coetsee (76), David Horsey (73) and Trevor Fisher Junior (75) all fading away in the final round, it was left to Blaauw, who teed off an hour-and-three-quarters before Coetzee, to set a target with a blistering round that included four successive birdies from the sixth hole and two-in-a-row to finish.

In the end it came down to whether Coetzee, who had picked up four birdies in five holes from the sixth to catch Blaauw on 13-under, could gain one more shot in the closing holes, or alternatively falter as he pushed too hard.

But that’s where home course knowledge kicked in and Coetzee showed great temperament. The crucial shot was his second on 17 after he hit his driver well right, between the trees, but a delicate, skilful chip left him with a five-foot putt for birdie.

“I had a good game plan mentally and I was waiting for 17, which is usually a birdie chance. It didn’t happen exactly how I wanted, but I know there are gaps between the bunkers there. Today it was about mixing aggressiveness with cleverness and I was very happy with my ball-striking, I was loving my driver. Most of my wins have been due to my putting, so it was nice for my ball-striking to come through today,” Coetzee said.

Not allowing his hand to be forced was crucial for Coetzee and he showed similar patience at the start of his round when he reeled off five straight pars before a monster-drive at the sixth set up his first birdie.

“I’ve played those first three holes a thousand times and they’re probably the trickiest on the course, and then the fourth they made a par-four this week. So that’s not where I wanted to make my charge, it’s easy to drop shots there, but I knew when I stepped on to the sixth tee that it was time,” Coetzee said.

Being able to deliver the goods under pressure also means the changes to Coetzee’s game, which includes simplifying his pre-shot routine again, are bearing fruit.

South Africans Dean Burmester and Tjaart van der Walt both shot three-under 67s to join Lee in a tie for third on nine-under, while Otaegui dropped back to eight-under to share sixth with Jaco Ahlers.


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