Justin Harding could be a dark horse at this years PGA Championship. Photo: Matt Slocu/AP Photo
If Justin Harding’s golf in rounds three and four of the AT & T Byron Nelson Classic last week is anything to go by, he’s clearly a man to watch in this year’s second Major 
 the PGA Championship beginning tomorrow.

The 33-year-old birdie machine blitzed Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas with a 64 on the Saturday and a 65 on the Sunday to finish on 16-under-par 268 and a share of 10th place. The weekend yielded 12 birdies for him, with an eagle thrown in for good measure and just a solitary bogey.

Since the beginning of 2017, when he was in the 700s in the world rankings, the fast-swinging, fast-talking, fast-finishing golfer from Stellenbosch has won on the Asian Tour (twice), the Sunshine Tour (twice), scored his debut win on the European Tour this year (in the Qatar Masters) and now he is making an impact in, for him, previously unchartered territory on the PGA Tour in America. He was top 15 in the Masters at Augusta, and now comes this showing in the AT&T.

He has risen to 42nd in the world, and of the South Africans only Louis Oosthuizen (21st) is above him. Harding doesn’t waste time over his shots and the late, great Harvey Penick, golf’s most-loved teacher, would have been proud of him. Penick always said the most important advice he could give any golfer was to “Take dead aim!” When you address the ball, he said, “hitting it has got to be the most important thing in your life at that moment. Shut out all thoughts other than picking out a target and taking dead aim at it. No disorganised thinking or worry to make you distracted from the primary object of the shot, which is to hit the target.”

That’s how Harding plays. No worries. He just takes dead aim, and lets it fly.

Can he win the PGA Championship? Well, it would be remarkable if he does since this is only his third Major appearance but he’s worth a look-in. He is one of eight South Africans in the line-up - the others being Oosthuizen, Branden Grace, Dylan Frittelli, Shaun Norris, Erik van Rooyen, Richard Sterne and Brandon Stone.

Hang on, shouldn’t that be nine South Africans? Isn’t Rory Sabbatini in the field too? Yes he is but the 42-year-old “Sabbo” is officially listed as playing out of Slovakia.

Sabbatini, who won the World Cup for South Africa in 2003 partnering Trevor Immelman, is married to Martina Stofanikova, his second wife, and she is Slovakian. His decision to become a Slovakian citizen is to support his wife and stepson and to further the sport in the small nation.

It also means he is eligible to represent Slovakia in the 2020 Olympics in Japan.

The PGA Championship is being held at Bethpage Black, the course a few miles east of Manhattan, where Tiger Woods won the 2002 US Open. Woods this week is gunning for his second straight Major win, following his Masters victory last month, and his 16th in his career.

The Argus

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