CAPE TOWN – South African golfer Justin Harding talks fast, plays fast and swings fast - real fast.
And he’s quickly become a multiple winner on the international stage - his latest victory coming this past Sunday in the European Tour’s Qatar Masters when, in a fast finish, he birdied three of the last four holes at Doha Golf Club for a 66 to win by two on 13-under-par 275.
Harding looks to be the new golden boy of South African golf. And “new” is the key word here, because at the beginning of 2018 he was ranked a lowly 716th in the world.
Now, after five wins in the past 10 months, he’s shot up to 52nd and the Majors are calling.
And he’s fast getting rich too, as the Qatar victory was worth e260000, which is a touch over R4million.
Harding is 33 and a naturally aggressive player.
In an interview last year, he admitted as much: “The big thing for me with my swing is controlling my speed.
“I’m naturally quicker than most and get a little bit out of whack now and again.
“But I have a reasonable understanding of what I’m doing wrong when I do it.”
We are proud to announce the successful conclusion of a fantastic run of educational and promotional events as part of the @CBQatarMasters international golf tournament which took place at the @DohaGolfClub: https://t.co/BilPpsp2aK #MyCBQatarMasters #CBactive pic.twitter.com/1DTpjoCl3h— CB Qatar Masters (@CBQatarMasters) March 12, 2019
Harding always knew he had skill when he turned professional in 2010. And, on the Sunshine Tour leading up to 2018, there were only three years when he didn’t win.
But 2018 became the year when he took his game to another level. How so?
He changed a few of his social activities.
As he put it, he dialled them down. He gave up the social drinking, which he admitted had been huge.
He also gave up having one or two beers during a tournament, and began to take his golf more as a job than he had in the past.
Now he feels he’s mentally fitter when he comes into tournaments, and is less mistake-prone at the end of a round.
Last year, the now far more dedicated Harding won back-to-back on the Sunshine Tour, in the Royal Swazi Open and the Lombard Insurance Classic.
Then, in his debut start in Asia, he captured the Indonesian Open before winning the Royal Cup in Thailand the following week.
He therefore became the first player in Asian Tour history to win twice in his first two outings on the tour. Ultimately, he finished third on the 2018 Asian Tour Order of Merit which has given him his ticket for the European Tour.
If he feels his fast swing gets a little bit out of whack now and again, it’s clearly not that often these days.
And now that life on the European Tour is guaranteed for the next couple of seasons, courtesy of Doha, he can - to an extent - pick and choose where he wants to play. He’s in golf’s fast lane.
The Qatar Open, incidentally, has been extremely good to South Africans over the years and Harding is the fifth champion there from this country after Darren Fichardt, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Branden Grace.
And, remarkably, this year there was a record, nine-way tie for second behind Harding which included three of his countrymen - George Coetzee, Erik van Rooyen and Christian Bezuidenhout.