Van Rooyen, Harding ready to shine
“It was one bad shot,” said the 29-year-old Bellville golfer who was involved in a six-man play-off at the Montgomerie Maxx Royal on Sunday.
“You’re going to have a few of those in a tournament. I hit that great tee shot in regulation to eagle the 18th and that got me into the play-off. Then I hit the worst shot of the week on the first play-off hole and I was out of it. I still walked away with a second place finish. You have to take it on the chin, let go and move on quickly.
“We’re on home soil in the second last event in the Race to Dubai and all my energy is focused on this week. I watched the Nedbank Golf Challenge as a kid and just like every other kid in South Africa, I wanted to play here. It’s a dream to be in this field, competing for this title.”
Van Rooyen finished his first season on the European Tour as the 2018 Rookie of the Year and Challenge Tour graduate of the year and continued living the dream this year.
His season was punctuated by his breakthrough victory in the Scandinavian Invitational in August and a slew of top five and top 10 finishes. The tie for second in Turkey shot the in-form South African to eighth position on the Race to Dubai and 51st in the world golf rankings.
“I won’t lie; going out the way I did stung, but it was still a great result for me. This week we’re playing a ball-striker’s paradise. Long holes and small greens. My game is really solid right now and I feel ready to take a stab at the title.”
Another golfer primed to emulate Brandon Grace - the last of the 14 South Africans to lift the title of the $7-million Rolex Series event on the European Tour’s prestigious Finals Series in 2017 - is Justin Harding.
He made a blistering start to the 2019 season and his precision short game landed him in the European Tour winner’s circle for the first time when he won the Qatar Masters in March. It was his fifth win in the last 12 months around the world and the South African also boasts a 12th place finish in the Masters.
He was in contention with rounds of 69 and 65 in Turkey, and he arrived for his debut at Sun City coming off a solid 25th place finish. At altitude the ball flies further than average, which will be a huge advantage for the 33-year-old around this tight par 72, 7 831 metre layout.
“I picked the brains of the guys that have played here before like George (Coetzee) and Gracie and they just tell me to keep it in play. The extra distance will definitely be a benefit for me.”