JOHANNESBURG – Judging by how far he was hitting the ball, it could have been none other than Tiger Woods practising on Randpark’s Bushwillow course yesterday ahead of the South African Open hosted by the City of Johannesburg beginning today.
But no, this was muscle man Toto Thimba, sharpening up his game in a threeball alongside fellow South African Musiwalo “Musi” Nethunzwi (both are former SA amateur internationals) and Zambia’s No 1 golfer Madalitso Muthiya.
Now the par-4 9th hole at Bushwillow measures 388 metres off the pro tees, Yesterday Thimba hit a big drive followed by a gap wedge from 79 metres out to just 20cm from the hole to set up a tap-in birdie three.
That was impressive enough but, as he explained: “I once hit my drive into a greenside bunker here.”
Now that speaks of a power game in the Woods and Dustin Johnson mould from this 33-year-old who is in his 11th year as a professional and is having his best season to date on the Sunshine Tour.
He is currently 29th on the Order of Merit, and his best finish in 2018 has been tied second at the Sun Carnival City Challenge at Ebotse Links.
Thimba and Nethunzwi have both won tournaments on South Africa’s Big Easy Tour, Musi in the 2017 event at long and tough Glendower where he closed with a sizzling 6-under-par 66. The SA Open is played over Randpark’s two courses - Bushwillow and Firethorn - and, as Soweto Country Club’s Nethunzwi points out, with not much rough scoring could be low this week.
Asked which he reckons is Bushwillow’s toughest hole, Nethunzwi says the third - a par-5 for the members, but made into a par-4 for the tournament.
“There’s a fairway bunker in the landing area on the left, lots of trees on the right and water up near the green. So there won’t be many birdies there now that it’s a par-4,” Nethunzwi exclaimed.
Muthiya has some pedigree behind him as a golfer. He played college golf at New Mexico University in the United States, before turning pro and campaigning on the Buy.Com Tour. He has had 16 top 10s on the Sunshine Tour, and one victory - in the wind at the 2016 Vodacom Origins of Golf Wild Coast.
Apart from Vijay Singh in 1997, the list of SA Open champions over the years (dating right back to 1893) has a totally “all-white” look to it. Thimba - the man who drives par-fours, Nethunzwi and Muthiya would very much like to change that.