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Sterne starts strong in Dubai

29th January 2021

Sterne starts strong in Dubai

Richard Sterne turned the form book on its head to reach the top of the leaderboard after a brilliant round of 64 on the opening day of the 2021 Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

Afternoon starters traditionally tend to struggle to post low scores in the Middle East as the wind picks up and the greens dry out and get firmer, but Sterne and Kurt Kitayama put those thoughts to one side to climb above early leaders Sergio Garcia and Justin Harding.

The pair looked set to share the clubhouse lead at the end of the first round but South African Sterne rolled in his ninth birdie of the day at the ninth – his last – to nudge one ahead of the American at eight under par.

Garcia and Harding sit one shot further back of Kitayama in a tie for third, while Paul Casey, Belgian Thomas Detry, Spaniard Adrian Otaegui and late starter Robert MacIntyre were at five under.

Sterne, who has won six European Tour events, is playing in only his fifth event since undergoing wrist surgery last March.

“Yeah, pretty happy,” Sterne said. “When I was in trouble, I got out of it and made some good par putts and kept the round going and I hit a lot golf shots as well. Made quite a few birdies.

“So today, I was pretty happy with the performance.”

Kitayama – starting on the back nine – made a fast start with a hat-trick of birdies from the 11th before dropping his only shot of the day at the 14th.

The American hit back with an eagle two at the 17th before reaching the turn with another birdie to sit one adrift of clubhouse leaders Garcia and Harding.

Two groups back, Sterne was making his move after also reaching five under through nine holes following gains at the tenth, 11th, 13th, 15th – where he was inches from a hole-in-one – and 17th.

Kitayama and Sterne simultaneously became co-leaders when they birdied the third and first holes respectively. The latter nudged ahead on his own with another gain at the third but the American rolled a testing 20 footer to join him at seven under.

The South African climbed to eight under thanks to an 15 foot birdie putt at the fifth, only to hand the shot back immediately at the next.

Kitayama will be disappointed not to profit on birdie opportunities as putts slid by the cup at the eighth and ninth, while Sterne managed to salvage pars at seventh and eighth before holing the decisive putt at the last to take the lead on his own.

“I haven’t played this well in a while, so it’s nice to get a round like this,” Kitayama said.

Garcia produced another vintage display as he rekindled old memories in Dubai.

The World Number 45 won this event in 2017 before going on to claim his maiden Major Championship at the Masters Tournament later that year.

He carded a flawless 66 – the 11th time he has recorded a round of 67 or better at Emirates Golf Club – to get to six under par.

Harding quietly plotted his way up the leaderboard after bouncing back from an opening bogey with an eagle and five gains – including three in his last four holes – to take the early lead before he was joined by Garcia.

Casey was making his first appearance at this event since 2014 but did not need any time to adjust to the 12 hour flight time from the United States.

The Englishman produced some magnificent iron play as he birdied five of his first seven holes en route to five under par.

Otaegui briefly held co-leadership alongside fellow Spaniard Garcia and Harding but carded his only bogey of the round on his penultimate hole after six birdies.

Detry rolled in a spotless 67, while MacIntyre finished birdie-birdie to reach five under.

Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Spain’s Adri Arnaus, England’s Tommy Fleetwood, Frenchman Romain Langasque and Finn Kalle Samooja were joined at four under by Ross Fisher, two time Major Champion Martin Kaymer and Australian Wade Ormsby.

Nacho Elvira was rewarded with a four night ultra all inclusive stay at JA Resorts and Hotels after the Spaniard aced the 170 yard par three 11th on Thursday afternoon. – European Tour.

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The quick interview: Christiaan Bezuidenhout

26th January 2021

The quick interview: Christiaan Bezuidenhout

South Africa’s Christiaan Bezuidenhout, winner of the Alfred Dunhill Championship, looks ahead to 2021.
Question: In terms of your career, where does 2020 fit in?

Christiaan: I had put a lot of effort into getting off to a good start to the year prior to The Players, and I liked the course at TPC Sawgrass. It’s a pity that event was cancelled because I ended up just missing my PGA Tour card by not that many points. A decent finish at The Players would have given me my PGA Tour card. But that happened and you can’t change it. I saw it as a time to rebuild and give myself another shot at it. My coach and I decided to make a few changes in my swing so I could be ready for 2021.

Question: What was the best moment of 2020?

Christiaan: I was very relieved to have won the Alfred Dunhill Championship. The tournament is very close to my heart, as well as Leopard Creek and all of the people there. To win this tournament was very special. And then to win the South African Open was amazing.

Question: Was there a secret to your success?

Christiaan: I’m getting more comfortable with where my game is at and my swing, and the whole environment of playing on the European Tour and PGA Tour and playing with the best players in the world. That’s been the biggest change in my game since my first European Tour victory last year (in the Andalucia Masters). It’s more of a comfort thing for me – that I know I can compete with the best in the world.

Question: What are your main targets for 2021?

Christiaan: A place inside the top 30 in the world is one of my next goals and hopefully I can play my way onto the PGA Tour and compete over there. That’s where you want to be.

Question: Off the golf course, what were your main memories of 2020?

Christiaan: I spent a lot of time with Ernie Els while in the United States. Ernie and I are pretty close. I came through his foundation and I’m very fortunate to have somebody like him who can give me great advice. He told me you have to have a balance of working hard and rest. You can’t just work yourself every day for 7-8 hours a day hitting balls and working on your game. You have to rest as well. You need to manage your time well and practise better. – Courtesy of the Alfred Dunhill Championship

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Sunshine Tour announces strong start to 2021

13th January 2021

Sunshine Tour postpones start of 2021 schedule

The Sunshine Tour has announced the postponement of its 2021 schedule by one month in light of the current nationwide rise in COVID-19 cases and in support of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call for all South Africans to work together to help curb the spread of the virus.

Thomas Abt, Commissioner of the Sunshine Tour, announced on Wednesday that the planned February start of the Sunshine Tour’s 2021 schedule has now been postponed until March this year.

The schedule will still begin with the new Kit Kat Group Pro-Am, which will now be played from 5-7 March, and will still include three consecutive tournaments co-sanctioned with the Challenge Tour.

The Challenge Tour’s “South African Swing” will begin in the week of 22-25 April. An announcement will be made shortly regarding this tournament and its venue. This will be followed by the Cape Town Open at Royal Cape Golf Club from 29 April – 2 May, and then the Dimension Data Pro-Am at Fancourt Golf Estate from 6-9 May.

The new dates and venues of the other tournaments on the schedule will be confirmed in due course.

“In light of the current increase in COVID-19 cases and after consultation with our own health experts and in partnership with GolfRSA and its Risk Mitigation Strategy team, we believe it is the most responsible course of action to postpone the start of our schedule,” said Abt.

“From the start of this virus, South African golf has worked very closely with government to ensure compliance of all health protocols, and most importantly to be seen as a sport that is acting in a safe and responsible manner. The safety of our members as well as our staff is our primary concern.

“I’d like to thank our Chairman, Johann Rupert, our Executive Director, Selwyn Nathan, our Board of Directors as well as our members and sponsors for their continued guidance, patience and understanding amidst what remains a very fluid situation for our game. I would also like to thank our partners at the Challenge Tour for their understanding.

“We are in constant communication with all of our stakeholders and will be ready to resume playing as soon as we believe it is safe to do so.”

The Sunshine Ladies Tour will also be postponing their 2021 season. The first event is planned for the week after Easter and all six events will be played at the same venues as last season. The season will once again culminate in the Investec South African Women’s Open at Westlake Golf Club in May. The full schedule will be released shortly.

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New Kit Kat Group Pro-Am tees off Sunshine Tour’s 2021 schedule

6th January 2021

New Kit Kat Group Pro-Am tees off Sunshine Tour’s 2021 schedule

The inaugural R1-million Kit Kat Group Pro-Am will tee off the Sunshine Tour’s 2021 schedule at Houghton Golf Club this February, ushering in a run of seven tournaments including three that will be co-sanctioned with the European Challenge Tour.

The 54-hole Kit Kat Group Pro-Am makes its debut on the Sunshine Tour’s calendar from 5-7 February with a field of 72 professionals competing alongside 60 invited amateurs in a two-day in-tournament pro-am, and with the final round reserved for the professionals.

The final three hours of the final round of the tournament will be live streamed on DStv Now.

As with all Sunshine Tour events, the Kit Kat Group Pro-Am will be played according to strict government COVID-19 health protocols and follow the same highly successful health protocols employed by the Tour during last year’s Rise-Up Series.

“We welcome the Kit Kat Group to our Sunshine Tour family and are delighted that this new tournament will tee off what we believe is a strong start to our 2021 professional golf year,” said Thomas Abt, Commissioner of the Sunshine Tour.

Riaz Gani, CEO of the Kit Kat Group, said: “We are extremely pleased to partner with the Sunshine Tour, which is a brand that aligns perfectly with our own. The Kit Kat Group has been built on a foundation of trust and with a focus to offer real value to our customers. The Sunshine Tour and South African professional golf presents a similar value offering. Golf also represents the kind of focus you need to succeed in life, and we feel strongly that the game of golf needs all the support it can get as it plays a vital role in developing important life skills amongst our youth.”

The Kit Kat Group Pro-Am will be a vital tournament for the Sunshine Tour professionals as not only their first tournament of the new year, but also the first tournament before the three-week stretch of the Dimension Data Pro-Am, the Cape Town Open and the Limpopo Championship which will be co-sanctioned with the European Challenge Tour.

“We had a very positive finish to what was a difficult 2020 with our three European Tour co-sanctioned tournaments. To now be able to welcome a new sponsor and tournament to our schedule continues the excellent momentum we built up at the end of 2020 as we continue our drive to offer our members greater playing opportunities,” said Abt.

Photo (From Left to Right): Nabeel Gani (COO), Riaz Gani (CEO), Ahmed Gani (Chairman) and Junaid Gani (CFO) of the Kit Kat Group, the sponsor of the new R1 million Kit Kat Group Pro-Am on the Sunshine Tour that will be played at Houghton Golf Club from 5-7 February.