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Cup squad has good feel, says Immelman

15th December 2020

Cup squad has good feel, says Immelman

By Trevor Immelman (courtesy of

December 12th marked one year since the first day of competition of the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne and somehow it feels like a lifetime ago and just yesterday all at once. Looking back, we arrived in Australia with high hopes but low expectations. We were a very young team – the youngest ever with seven rookies – but were filled with excitement at the opportunity to compete against one of the strongest American teams ever assembled.

We had a lot of belief in our leader Ernie (Els) and drew confidence from his stature, his standing in the game, his record at Royal Melbourne and throughout his career. In a certain sense you could see how excited the youngsters on our team were just to have access to him and to be in his presence. When you consider the struggles the International Team has endured throughout the years, to get that close to re-entering the winners circle was a great feeling.

Ultimately, we came up short but our team as a unit took a giant step in the right direction. (Note: The U.S. Team won 16-14)

We wanted to keep that momentum going and immediately began meetings in January of 2020 regarding the future of our team and the blueprint we saw going forward. We made plans, put together puzzle pieces for what we thought would be the 2021 Presidents Cup. Then the pandemic hit, and we had to hit the pause button.

As Captain, there were two ways I could look at the postponement. I could look at it as a disadvantage, that we lost momentum we’d felt we gained in Australia. We wished we could have played the following week in 2019 and instead it will be three years between Cups. But that is just one side of the coin. The side which I chose to focus on and what I think will be good for us considering we had seven rookies is that an extra year gives them a much greater opportunity to compete in the biggest events and gain more experience against the best players in the world. They’re going to bag that extra experience and then come to Quail Hollow and draw from that. That’s what I think is important and the lens through which I chose to view this challenge.

I look back to the Masters Tournament in November as a great example of experience gained. To see those players step up gave me a sense of pride. Cam Smith shooting four rounds in the 60s en route to a runner-up finish has never been done before. Between Sungjae Im, who finished tied second at Augusta National, and Joaquin Niemann you have two 22-year-olds that have become consistent forces on the PGA TOUR. Dylan Frittelli and C.T. Pan also recorded their first top 10 in a major championship and Abraham Ancer played in the final group on Sunday. I don’t think those performances would have happened without the lessons they learned at Royal Melbourne. I was also delighted to see my countryman Christiaan Beizundenhout win back-to-back European Tour titles in South Africa these past few weeks. Already ranked inside the world’s top-40, this young man could be another strong contender to make the International Team. If you add those names to the nucleus of our team that I believe will still be there – Matsuyama, Scott, Oosthuizen, Leishman and Day – you can start to assemble a squad that has a really good feel about it.

Nine months has passed since we first hit the pause button. We have regained our momentum since the PGA TOUR’s Return to Golf, and I am excited about the talent being built upon this season. Looking ahead to the coming months, I look forward to announce the criteria for players to qualify to represent the International Team at Quail Hollow Club in 2022. It’s time to plug back in.

Note: Trevor Immelman is captain of the International Team for the 2022 Presidents Cup and is a two-time winner on the PGA TOUR.

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Sunshine Tour announces strong start to 2021

10th December 2020

Sunshine Tour announces strong start to 2021

The Sunshine Tour has announced that it will tee off 2021 with a strong run of seven tournaments, including three which will be co-sanctioned with the European Challenge Tour.

The local golf year will begin with the R1 million Kit Kat Group Pro-Am at Houghton Golf Club from 5-7 February.

This will be followed by the three Challenge Tour co-sanctioned tournaments of the R6 million Dimension Data Pro-Am, the R3 million Cape Town Open and the R3 million Limpopo Championship.

The Dimension Data Pro-Am, won by South Africa’s Christiaan Bezuidenhout in 2020, will take place at Fancourt Golf Estate, George, from 11-14 February where each player will be paired with an amateur and play one round on each of the venue’s three courses – The Links, Montagu and Outeniqua – before a third round cut leaves the leading players to compete for the title in the final round.

A week later, the Cape Town Open will return to King David Mowbray Golf Club and Royal Cape Golf Club from 18-21 February. Sweden’s Anton Karlsson secured his first Challenge Tour victory in the 2020 edition of the event against the iconic backdrop of Cape Town’s Table Mountain.

The Challenge Tour’s South African Swing will conclude with the Limpopo Championship, won by South Africa’s JC Ritchie in 2020, from 25-28 February at Euphoria Golf Club and Koro Creek Golf Club as members of both Tours compete for early season Road to Mallorca Rankings points.

The Sunshine Tour will then continue with The Players Championship (offering a minimum purse of R1 million) from 11-13 March at a venue still to be announced, the R1 million Gauteng Championship presented by Betway from 18-20 March at Ebotse Golf and Country Estate, and the R1.5 million Tour Championship from 25-28 March at Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate.

Thomas Abt, the Sunshine Tour Commissioner, said: “We’re delighted to be able to announce our early 2021 schedule, which makes for a strong start to the year for our members. I’d like to thank our Chairman, Johann Rupert, our Executive Director, Selwyn Nathan, as well as our Board of Directors, sponsors and partners for their support as we’ve worked on a schedule that gives us a very healthy base from upon which to build the rest of our 2021 schedule.”

“I’m very pleased that we can tee off these seven tournaments with a new tournament and a new sponsor in Kit Kat Cash and Carry for the Kit Kat Invitational, and we welcome them to the Sunshine Tour schedule. It’s also a great pleasure to welcome back the Challenge Tour to South African fairways. The Sunshine Tour is a tour of opportunity and we’re focused on providing our members with as many opportunities as possible to realise our vision that GreatnessBeginsHere. The partnership with the Challenge Tour provides us with yet another level in the game whereby our members can gain access onto the greater international stage.”

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Bezuidenhout wins SA Open

6th December 2020

Bezuidenhout wins SA Open

Christiaan Bezuidenhout added his name to the greats of South African golf as he claimed a five-shot victory in the South African Open at the Gary Player Country Club on Sunday.

Bezuidenhout signed for a final round of 69 to win on 18 under par, with Jamie Donaldson taking second place on 13 under par after also closing with a 69. Dylan Frittelli was third on 11 under with his final round of 71.

The win earned Bezuidenhout back-to-back victories on the Sunshine Tour and European Tour following his triumph in last week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.

“It feels amazing. It wasn’t easy out there and the first nine didn’t go my way, but I hung in there. To stand here as the SA Open champion is unbelievable. This is massive for me. It’s always been a dream and I wasn’t sure when, or if, I would achieve it,” said Bezuidenhout.

Bezuidenhout was never really under any pressure on the final day. He took a five-stroke lead into the final round, and even when Jamie Donaldson made an early charge with two birdies in his first three holes to cut that lead to three Bezuidenhout’s composure never wavered.

He parred his way through the opening seven holes, and then suffered his first bogey when he hit his approach on the eighth into the water. But a run of three birdies from the 10th hole was the final push he needed.

“When you go into the final round with a five-shot lead you are expecting to win it, so I did put a bit of pressure on myself. When things didn’t go my way on the front nine my caddie just kept me calm, and we did a great job coming in.”

South African Casey Jarvis claimed the Freddie Tait trophy as the leading amateur, finishing tied 25th on one under par with rounds of 73, 74, 71 and 69.

“This means a lot to me and I’m very honoured to have won this trophy. There are some great names on this trophy. It’s a goal I set for myself and I’m just very honoured to have achieved it,” he said.

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Bezuidenhout chasing SA Open glory

5th December 2020

Bezuidenhout chasing SA Open glory

Christiaan Bezuidenhout has the chance to join South African golf royalty as he takes a five-stroke lead into Sunday’s final round of the South African Open at the Gary Player Country Club.

Bezuidenhout signed for his third consecutive 67 to top the leaderboard on 15 under par, with Dylan Frittelli and Jamie Donaldson his nearest challengers on 10 under.

The South African now has the chance to become the first golfer since Justin Rose in 2017 to win back-to-back tournaments on the European Tour after he won last week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.

But more significantly for him, he has the chance to add his name to the trophy of the second oldest national Open in golf, and one that bears all of the legends of the South African game.

“I’m really happy to be in this position. I’ve played three solid rounds of golf and have stuck to my gameplan by not taking the golf course on and just keeping it in play,” he said.

“This is my fourth week in a row, but  I’ve been sleeping well and my body is holding up quite well. I’m just trying to manage myself. I just need to hold up for another 24 hours. But it’s amazing to be in this position.”

Behind him, Frittelli will be pushing hard on the final day as he’s well aware that Bezuidenhout is not making too many mistakes out there at the moment.

“I’m going to try and go as low as I can, so it will take something around there to catch him because he’s not going to shoot anything less than 70 the way he’s playing,” he said after his round of 70.

Frittelli was only three shots off the lead playing the 18th, which this week is the par-five ninth. The nines have been swapped for this tournament.

But he pulled his drive left and had to take a penalty drop on his way to making a bogey for a 70, and on a hole that Bezuidenhout later birdied.

“I struggled a bit down the stretch. The conditions weren’t that difficult and I felt like I left two or three shots out there. But I’ll have to go out and shoot five, six or seven under on the final day and try and put some pressure on Christiaan.”

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Bezuidenhout, Donaldson share lead at Sun City

4th December 2020

Bezuidenhout, Donaldson share lead at Sun City

Christiaan Bezuidenhout maintained his push for back-to-back victories on the Sunshine Tour and European Tour’s South African Swing, but he still has company at the top of the South African Open leaderboard going into the weekend at the Gary Player Country Club.

Bezuidenhout signed for a second consecutive 67 on Friday to climb to 10 under par at the halfway stage of this tournament. While he managed to break free of the six-way tie for the lead he shared after day one, Welshman Jamie Donaldson went with Bezuidenhout and also came through the second round at 10 under par following a sublime 63.

They are two strokes clear of Dean Burmester and Dylan Frittelli, who posted rounds of 69 and 68 respectively.

But Bezuidenhout has shown no signs of a loss of momentum following his victory in the Alfred Dunhill Championship last week, and seems in perfect control of his game at this point.

“I’m very pleased. I missed a few makeable putts on the par fives and a few short putts which hurt a bit, but no damage was done. I was controlled and solid today, and I’m very pleased to be at -10 at the halfway mark. You have to have good course management around here and I’ve had a good gameplan for this week. I’m not going to change anything,” he said.

Donaldson made the biggest move with his round of 63 and is equally excited about the prospect of contending on the weekend on a golf course he enjoys.

“This is a great country and I really enjoy playing this golf course. You’ve got to hit fairways here. If you hit it in the rough it’s so much harder to get the right distance into the greens. I hit a lot of tee shots in play and my iron shots were very close to the flags, and then I was able to capitalise on that with good putts. I must have holed four or five 20-foot putts. So all in all it was a very good day.”

Behind them, Frittelli in particular is also exactly where he planned to be at the start of this tournament.

“I said at the start if I can be within two or three shots going into the final nine holes, I feel l’ll have a chance. I’m within two of the lead so that’s perfect for the weekend.”

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Auto Draft 109

3rd December 2020

Bezuidenhout in six-pack of SA Open leaders

Christiaan Bezuidenhout opened with a five-under-par 67 to place him in a six-way tie for the first-round lead of the South African Open as he chases back-to-back victories on the Sunshine Tour and European Tour’s South African Swing.

The winner of last week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship picked up where he left off at Leopard Creek as he made six birdies and only one bogey at the Gary Player Country Club on Thursday to join fellow South Africans Dean Burmester, Jacques Kruyswijk and Ruan Korb as well as Austria’s Matthias Schwab and Italian Aron Zemmer in the lead.

“I got off to a nice start and turned five under par, then I birdied my 10th hole to get to six under,” said Bezuidenhout, who teed off the 10th. But with the nines swapped for this tournament, he faced the more difficult nine as his second nine, and which was compounded by a strong wind which seemed to also put a chill on his putter.

“The putter just went cold. I just couldn’t make the putts coming in. The wind also picked up which made it more tricky. But it’s nice to have a good start and hopefully I can keep the momentum going and put myself in a good position come Sunday.”

Schwab played with Bezuidenhout and said he fed off the South African’s fast start on the first nine.

“I just tried to keep up with him. Then it got a little bit windy and I just kept the score together coming in. Overall it was good and it’s nice to be bogey-free,” he said after a round of three birdies and an eagle.

The leaders are one stroke clear of Frenchman Matthieu Pavon and South Africa’s Dylan Frittelli. Frittelli also said the wind stopped the momentum he had built up to get to seven under through 10 holes before three bogeys coming in.

“It was a tale of two nines. I played really well on the first nine and everything was just flawless, and then I played poorly on the back. The wind got up which made it tricky. But it was a decent start. As long as I’m within two or three shots going into the final round I feel like I have a good shot.”

GolfRSA’s Casey Jarvis and Christiaan Maas both made strong claims for the Freddie Tait trophy as they each opened with rounds of one-over-par 73 to lead the amateur scoring on day one.

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Golfers dreaming of a place in SA Open history

Golfers dreaming of a place in SA Open history

The 110th playing of the South African Open at the Gary Player Country Club this week represents an incredible opportunity for the entire field, and none more so than for some of the Sunshine Tour’s golfers who see a victory this week as a career dream for them.

“This ranks very highly for me in terms of tournaments I want to win,” says Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who is looking for back-to-back victories following his triumph in last week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship.

“It’s one of the most prestigious tournaments in world golf, and the second oldest national Open in golf. For any South African golfer it’s a dream to win their national Open. I’ve come close a couple of times and would love to pull it through this week.”

“It’s a special week – no doubt about it,” adds young Sunshine Tour professional Dylan Naidoo. “The SA Open is very important for all of us on the Sunshine Tour. This is a tournament that everyone marks on the schedule. I mean, you have somebody like Dylan Frittelli who’s just played in The Masters coming back to play here. All the top Sunshine Tour professionals support the South African Open.”

As a winner on the Sunshine Tour already in last year’s KCB Karen Masters, Toto Thimba Jnr. views the SA Open as the next step in his career.

“For me to win the SA Open would be huge. Every South African golfer wants to win this one. I’m very excited and pleased to be here competing this week.”

There will also be eight GolfRSA amateurs in the field – South African number one Casey Jarvis as well as Kyle de Beer, Yurav Premlall, Sam Simpson, Christo Lamprecht, Christiaan Maas, Jordan Duminy and Massimo Mbetse – all chasing opportunities of their own to further their careers as they look to add their names to the Freddie Tait trophy as the leading amateur at the end of the week.

The national Open is indeed a week of immense golf opportunity, as five-time champion Ernie Els points out.

“What the SA Open has meant to me has been immense. My career started by winning the SA Open at Houghton in 1992. It got me into European Tour events and into The Open where I finished fifth that year. There’s so much in the SA Open I’m grateful for.”

And it’s an opportunity Naidoo is certainly not taking for granted.

“I’ve watched the SA Open growing up and to be playing here as a Sunshine Tour professional is special. For someone young like me to have this opportunity is something I’ve always looked forward to.”

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Frittelli excited for SA Open challenge

1st December 2020

Frittelli excited for SA Open challenge

Dylan Frittelli believes so much in the history and tradition of the South African Open that he goes as far as to say he wouldn’t feel his career would be complete without adding his name to the trophy of the second oldest national Open in golf.

“I’ve won on the European Tour and on the PGA Tour, and if I don’t win the South African Open, it’s definitely going to be something that I’ll feel like I haven’t accomplished in my career,” Frittelli said ahead of his appearance in the 110th edition of the national Open at the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City this week.

Frittelli returns to South Africa shortly after his tied fifth finish in The Masters to support the South African Swing of the Sunshine Tour and European Tour, and in particular this tournament which is jointly supported by Nedbank and Sun International.

And he believes the fact that the South African Open is being played at the Gary Player Country Club for the first time in its history gives him one of his best opportunities to join the list of greats who have won this title.

“The South African Open is the one I want to win. I used to watch the South African Open as a kid and I remember a bunch of them. I definitely remember the duel between Ernie Els and Retief Goosen at Fancourt in 2005.

“When I knew it was coming here to Sun City, I thought that was good for me because I’ve done well here in a few Nedbank Golf Challenges. This is also a ball striker’s course which seems to favour me. So I’m really excited.”

After a practice round on Tuesday to acquaint himself with the nines that have been swapped for this year’s tournament, allowing the par-five ninth to serve as the finishing hole this week, Frittelli is even more excited about his chances.

“The course looks really good, and the heat’s going to be a factor this week for sure. My game is feeling good. I got rid of the jet lag last week. I’m healthy and feeling fresh, so I’m really looking forward to this week.”