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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.

Gabba pitch aside, years since SA batting was so weak 0

Posted on June 09, 2023 by Ken

The consensus among former Australian players in Brisbane was that they had never seen a Gabba Test pitch that was so green as what was prepared for the first Test against the Proteas this weekend; it has also probably been years since they saw such a weak South African batting line-up.

Those two factors, plus the sheer quality of both bowling attacks, were the reasons behind the astonishing two-day Test match in Brisbane, the second-shortest ever in Australia and the second-shortest anywhere since 1935.

The Proteas batting was already at a low ebb when they arrived in Australia. Their entire squad boasts just 17 Test centuries and captain Dean Elgar has scored 13 of them. It is a far, far cry from previous South African touring teams Down Under which saw batsmen like Faf du Plessis, Jacques Kallis, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers boast great individual performances. Previously, stars like Eddie Barlow, Aubrey Faulkner, Graeme Pollock and Colin Bland wowed Australian crowds.

There will be many different opinions as to why South African batting is at such a nadir; mine is the lack of top-quality first-class cricket played by the batsmen, yours may be different.

Elgar seems reluctant to make changes for the vital second Test in Melbourne from Boxing Day, but the Proteas have to bring something different to stay in the series. Selection does not seem to be a strong point of their’s at the moment and in Brisbane, in the most bowler-friendly conditions imaginable, they went in with five frontline bowlers instead of playing the extra batsman. Between them, Lungi Ngidi and Keshav Maharaj bowled just 11 overs.

Rassie van der Dussen has scored just 295 runs in his last eight Tests at an average of only 21.07, having not reached fifty in that time, and would appear to be most in danger of losing his place. Theunis de Bruyn and Heinrich Klaasen, both in-form domestically before going on tour, are next in line.

Meanwhile Ryan Rickelton is back in South Africa and looking invincible whatever is going on in his ankle.

Advisable not to watch Sharks at the moment; ugly win over Ospreys 0

Posted on March 29, 2023 by Ken

It’s probably advisable not to watch the Sharks play rugby at the moment because it’s a bit like watching someone struggle with a serious illness in hospital; their latest display being an ugly 25-10 win over the Ospreys at Kings Park in which they scored 14 points in the last three minutes.

The sacking of head coach Sean Everitt was not the instant panacea some people expected it would be, as the Sharks were still severely lacking in polish, error-ridden in the red zone and disorganised on attack. The fact that they were only leading by one point at home after 76 minutes against a side that had won just one of their previous eight matches says it all.

Of greatest concern was the number of basic errors they made, far too many to be considered serious contenders for any silverware.

That the Sharks had more than enough chances to put the Ospreys away was thanks to the utter dominance of their scrum and their excellent defence leading to several turnovers at the breakdown.

And yet, despite enjoying 60% of possession and territory in the first half, they could only lead 6-0 at the break through two Curwin Bosch penalties. The flyhalf was playing his first URC game of the season after a fractured arm in pre-season, and showed enough glimpses of class to suggest the Sharks should persevere with him in the No.10 jersey.

The Sharks were then rocked soon after the break when Ospreys scored a try of genuine quality. Eighthman Morgan Morris and prop Rhys Henry burst clear from a lineout inside their own half, and then there was great work down the short side by the forwards, leading to scrumhalf Matthew Aubrey being stopped just short of the line by a great Bosch tackle. The ball was recycled though and flyhalf Jack Walsh put in an excellent crosskick for wing Luke Morgan to score.

The Sharks did at least provide a prim and proper response as flank Sikhumbuzo Notshe turned over possession from the restart and then scored from close range after a maul.

Despite their dominance, the Sharks were left with a really nervous finish as the replacement front row conceded a scrum penalty and Morris forced his way between two poor tackles on the tryline to score and close the gap to just one point again with 13 minutes remaining.

The Sharks did at least finish strongly, sealing the win in the 77th minute as Bosch ran around to find a hole in the defence and score after the forwards had bashed away at close range against a stout Ospreys defence. Replacement flank James Venter then added some gravy as he forced his way over for a try.

But there was little for director of rugby and new head coach Neil Powell to feel comfortable about.


SharksTries: Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Curwin Bosch, James Venter. Conversions: Bosch (2). Penalties: Bosch (2).

OspreysTries: Luke Morgan, Morgan Morris.

Grace & Walters the leading South Africans; can count themselves lucky to be in NGC 0

Posted on February 10, 2023 by Ken

Branden Grace and Justin Walters are the leading South Africans after the first round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge and both can probably count themselves as being fortunate to be in the tournament.

Grace and Walters both shot two-under-par 70s to be in share of 12th place, and six shots off Ryan Fox’s lead, alongside Max Kieffer, Romain Langasque, David Law, Paul Waring, Dale Whitnell, Matthew Jordan and defending champion and highest-ranked golfer, Tommy Fleetwood.

Grace was one-over-par at the turn and picked up three birdies on the back nine to turn his round around, and Walters started his round on the 10th and struggled initially, with a double-bogey and a bogey before his turn, but then he picked up four birdies on the front nine and did not drop another shot.

Grace is one of the golfers who has joined the controversial LIV Tour and is 207th on the DP World Tour rankings, well out of the qualifying spaces, and the last South African winner of the Nedbank Golf Challenge, in 2017, relied on an invitation to be in the tournament.

Walters is 72st on the order of merit and relied on a few top golfers not coming to Sun City for his place.

“It’s very nice to be here and I’m just grateful to the DP World Tour, Nedbank and Sun International for the invite,” Grace said. “I love coming back here. It’s really nice to see your name on the walkway on the ninth and your trophy photo on the 18th. It helps your self-belief.”

Perhaps not coincidentally, Grace’s resurgence began shortly after the turn.

“I was my familiar couple-over-par after the first couple of holes, I don’t know what it is about the front nine here. I always seem to be on the back foot, but I managed to get it together.

“My first goal was to just be level-par after the ninth, and in the end I’m very happy to be two-under. The back nine was an opportunity for me to go after things a bit.

“With my shape and length off the tee, I just have more opportunities on the back nine. But especially on a golf course like this, you are never too far away from falling,” Grace said.

For Walters, his Nedbank Golf Challenge debut is enough of a highlight for the 42-year-old, who has won twice on the Sunshine Tour.

“It’s my first Nedbank Golf Challenge. I’ve been a pro for 20 years, I’ve been around and I always wanted to play in it, so I’m just trying to put my best foot forward.

“When I was 21, I played with my Dad at Country Club Johannesburg and I shot 61. He said if I keep playing like that then I will play in the Nedbank Golf Challenge in a couple of years.

“It’s taken twenty years, but I am here now. Unfortunately I made a pretty bad start, I was rattled a bit. But then I made a few putts, starting with a 30-footer on the third, and I felt the switch of momentum,” Walters said.

“I hit some great shots coming in and golf is all about momentum – you get it going in your direction and then you must just ride the wave.”

Shaun Norris and Richard Sterne were the other South Africans under par, sneaking in with 71s, while Oliver Bekker, JC Ritchie and George Coetzee finished level-par.

It was not such a great day for Christiaan Bezuidenhout (+1) or Thriston Lawrence (+2), who could both only register one birdie, while Zander Lombard shot a 76.

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