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Norris wins big in Japan 2

24th May 2021

Norris wins big in Japan

Shaun Norris claimed his fifth victory on the Japan Golf Tour when he won a three-way playoff for the Golf Partner Pro-Am at the Toride Kokusai Golf Club on Sunday.

Norris beat Zimbabwean Scott Vincent and Tomohiro Otsuki on the second hole of the playoff.

It was a week of incredible golf for Norris, who opened with a 60 and then signed for a final round of 63 to tie for the lead on 21 under par.

As he explained to his Japanese audience, “This pro-am format may be new to the Japan Golf Tour, but in my home country on the Sunshine Tour we play the majority of our tournaments in this format, so I am used to it.”

Norris said the victory is a timely one as he seeks to win more titles this year.

“I wasn’t able to come to the Japan Golf Tour last year so I am way down on the money list , but I will fight on hard to catch up. I want to win at least two more tournaments this season.”

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Oosthuizen two behind in chase to PGA Championship glory 5

23rd May 2021

Oosthuizen two behind in chase to PGA Championship glory

Louis Oosthuizen is two shots off the lead going into the final round of the PGA Championship as he chases his second Major title.

Despite what he said was a day of poor golf by his high standards, Oosthuizen signed for a level-par 72 to finish 54 holes on five under par overall.

Phil Mickelson managed to extend his lead to seven under par with a third round of 70, and he leads by one stroke over second-placed Brooks Koepka, who also signed for a 70.

Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Branden Grace are still both in the top five on three under par following respective third rounds of 72.

Oosthuizen is certainly well placed going into the final round, and despite feeling that he wasn’t at his best on Saturday.

“That was probably the worst I’ve played in a while,” he said. “Especially the first 10 holes going along with Phil hitting it beautifully and playing great, I was all over the place. I could sense early on that I wasn’t on song, especially I felt a move in my driver that I didn’t like, and from there it wasn’t good.

“So I was just sort of fighting to stay in it, and you know, at the end there, I started judging the greens wrong and everything just fell apart. All in all, two behind going into Sunday, I’ve got to take a lot of positives out of that with the way I was playing today. I think anyone within four or five shots is still in for a good shot.”

But Mickelson will certainly prove to be hard to catch with the kind of mindset he currently has and with the chance to make history as the first golfer to win a Major after turning 50.

“I believe that I’m playing really well and I have an opportunity to contend for a Major championship on Sunday, and I’m having so much fun,” he said.

Of the other South Africans in the field, Daniel van Tonder signed for a third round of 74 to go into the final day on three over par. Dean Burmester also posted a 74 to put him on six over par, while Garrick Higgo carded a 78 to finish the day on 11 over par.

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Oosthuizen shares PGA Championship lead 1

22nd May 2021

Oosthuizen shares PGA Championship lead

Louis Oosthuizen is tied for the lead going into the weekend of a PGA Championship where both Branden Grace and Christiaan Bezuidenhout are also challenging in the top five at Kiawah Island.

Oosthuizen leads a strong South African challenge looking to win the country’s first Major since 2012.

He posted a 68 on the Ocean Course on Friday to come through 36 holes tied with Phil Mickelson on five under par. They are one stroke clear of Brooks Koepka. But Oosthuizen has plenty of South African support two shots back, with Grace and Bezuidenhout signing for respective rounds of 71 and 70 to place them on three under par.

“It’s great,” said Oosthuizen. “We’re 11 South African players here this week. We have a great programme with youngsters coming through, and it’s great seeing them up there. I watched a bit this morning and seeing Branden and Christiaan at this stage being 1 and 2, they’re good friends and great players, and they’ll definitely be up there this weekend.”

Oosthuizen is looking to win the second Major of his career after a number of near misses.

“Look, it’ll be great to get a second Major. In two of them I was really close, I was in playoffs. I don’t think it’s a case of not being able to or thinking that I can’t get the second. It’s just both times I was outplayed. There’s a lot of golf left, and I just feel whenever I get to a Major, I sort of have my game where I want to have it, and mentally I feel very strong at a Major week.

“I mean, look, anyone playing last group or second to last group, you’ll be a little nervous. But I know that, and I know how to deal with it or know what I have to do. I am definitely more comfortable playing in Majors now than before. Hitting it well and knowing your game is there, it makes it a little less stress, but you still need to hit the shots and play in the moment and play well.”

Behind him, Grace is relishing being in contention.

“I’m exactly where anybody would want to be going into the weekend. I believe that I should be out here. I believe that I should be a top 30 player in the world, and I believe I should win. This is where I want to play. I’ve contended in these big events before. There’s no reason why I can’t contend in them now, especially around a golf course like this.”

And Bezuidenhout is equally confident going into the weekend of a Major that forms a big part of his plans to secure a PGA Tour card.

“I’m obviously still playing in the top-50 category out here, and I’ve got five more tournaments left, which I feel like I can get my card out here and then come and play full-time. It’s always nice to be in the top 5 heading into the weekend.”

Daniel van Tonder, Dean Burmester and Garrick Higgo are the other South Africans who made the cut for the weekend. Van Tonder starts Saturday’s third round on one over par, with Burmester at four over and Higgo right on the cut mark of five over par.

Dylan Frittelli, Erik van Rooyen, George Coetzee, Charl Schwartzel and Brandon Stone all missed the cut.

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Grace leads SA charge on tough opening day at Kiawah

21st May 2021

Grace leads SA charge on tough opening day at Kiawah

Branden Grace led the South African challenge on a tough opening day of the PGA Championship at a windy Ocean Course on Kiawah Island.

Grace’s opening two-under-par 70 made him one of only 15 players to shoot 70 or better on day one, and it puts him three strokes off the lead of Canadian Corey Connors.

On the longest golf course in Major championship history, even the big-hitting Bryson DeChambeau had to concede defeat as the wind dominated the field.

“Yeah, it was not easy out there…Mentally you have to show a lot of resolve…Getting to 4-over is really nothing out here…It’s diabolical. This is the most difficult golf course that I’ve played on Tour, and that is a straight-up fact for me,” he said after his first round of level-par 72.

Fellow South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Christiaan Bezuidenhout finished the day one shot behind Grace with rounds of 71.

Erik van Rooyen opened with a level-par 72, while Dylan Frittelli and Garrick Higgo, playing in his first Major, signed for rounds of 73. Dean Burmester began his challenge with a round of two-over 74.

The other South Africans in the field will have their work cut out for them in Friday’s second round as they look to make it through to the weekend.

George Coetzee and Daniel van Tonder will start the second day on three over after their rounds of 75, while Charl Schwartzel will be looking to fight his way back from an opening 76, and Brandon Stone will be doing the same after a 78.

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Eleven South Africans contending for PGA Championship glory

18th May 2021

Eleven South Africans contending for PGA Championship glory

A total of 11 South Africans will tee it up in this week’s PGA Championship at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course, and with many of them in top form going into the second Major of the year.

Garrick Higgo makes his Major Championship debut as arguably the hottest golfer on the planet following the 22-year-old’s recent European Tour triumphs in both the Gran Canaria Lopesan Open and the Canary Island’s Championship, where he set several records in the process.

Dean Burmester makes his PGA Championship debut shortly after claiming his second European Tour title by a crushing five strokes in the Tenerife Open this month.

George Coetzee returns to a Major where he had his best finish at this level of the game with tied seventh in the 2015 PGA Championship, and Erik van Rooyen also had his best Major finish in the PGA Championship when he ended tied eighth in 2019.

Branden Grace is back at a Major where he finished third in 2015 and tied fourth in 2016, and having won his second PGA Tour title this February in the Puerto Rico Open.

Charl Schwartzel is rediscovering his form and heads into this week off the back of a tied third-place finish in the PGA Tour’s AT&T Byron Nelson last week.

Brandon Stone won again on the European Challenge Tour’s South African Swing last month, and Daniel van Tonder makes his Major debut after being granted an invitation by the PGA of America to participate this week and following his breakthrough victory on the European Tour in the Kenyan Savannah Classic in March.

Louis Oosthuizen will lead the South Africans as the highest ranked in the field at 31stin the world followed by Christiaan Bezuidenhout at number 41. Dylan Frittelli completes the 10 South Africans who are currently within the top 100 on the world ranking.

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Williams given Major boost with Nelson Mandela Bay Classic win

13th May 2021

Williams given Major boost with Nelson Mandela Bay Classic win

Chris Williams gave himself the perfect preparation for the upcoming US Senior PGA Championship at the end of May when he won the Nelson Mandela Bay Classic by a single stroke on the Sunshine Senior Tour at Humewood Golf Club on Thursday.

Williams closed with a round of 69 to win on three-under-par 213. He finished one stroke clear of Neil Cheetham who signed for a final round of 71. André Cruse, who battled Williams for the lead on the back nine, finished third on one-under 215 after a 71.

The timing of the victory couldn’t have been better for Williams. At the end of this month both he and James Kingston will travel to Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to play in the US Senior PGA Championship.

“It’s nice to have won like this just before you leave for a Major like that,” said Williams, who recently finished second to Kingston in the South African Senior Open.

“I won a small senior event at the beginning of the year. But this is my first big one since winning the South African Senior Open a couple of years ago. I haven’t hit the ball as well as I did for a long time. I’ve put new shafts in my irons and I was knocking the flagsticks out. And it was also great to beat such a quality field,” he said of a field that included several former Sunshine Tour campaigners who have recently joined the Sunshine Senior Tour ranks.

“We’ve got a lot of former Sunshine Tour players on the Sunshine Senior Tour now and the standard is very high. Then you look at the quality of golfers who are just about to become seniors, like a Keith Horne and an Adilson da Silva, and you realise we’re going to have a very competitive Sunshine Senior Tour in the future with so many star players coming through.” – Michael Vlismas

Photo: Michael Sheehan

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Cheetham and Scheepers chasing glory in Nelson Mandela Bay Classic

12th May 2021

Cheetham and Scheepers chasing glory in Nelson Mandela Bay Classic

Former European Tour professional Neil Cheetham battled a typically strong Humewood wind to shoot one of only four sub-par rounds on day two of the Sunshine Senior Tour’s Nelson Mandela Bay Classic on Wednesday, giving him a share of the lead with Centurion golfer Gerhard Scheepers.

Cheetham signed for a 71 while Scheepers produced the low round of the day with a 69 to see them tied for the lead on one-under-par 143 through 36 holes of this 54-hole tournament.

They are one stroke clear of the vastly experienced trio of Chris Williams, André Cruse and James Kingston. Kingston was the overnight leader but struggled to a 75 on Wednesday, while Williams posted a 73 and Cruse a 74.

The only other two players in the field who managed to break par on Wednesday were Mark McNulty and Doug McGuigan who both posted rounds of 71 to finish the day tied seventh on two over par.

“It was blowing four or five clubs at times. I can honestly say it was some of the most difficult conditions I can ever remember playing in. It was pure survival out there,” said Cheetham, who grew up playing links golf in England.

“Your ball flight and the shape of your shots was of vital importance. I think the most difficult thing was committing to certain shots, like instead of hitting an eight iron you’re now hitting a five iron the same distance when the wind is blowing like that.”

But Cheetham said he enjoyed the challenge posed by the typical links conditions.

“It brings out the shot-making in you, and stimulates your imagination with shots. It takes me back to my European Tour days and having to see shots and commit to shots.”

Scheepers, who plays most of his golf on the highveld, did exceptionally well with his 69 in conditions that are quite foreign to him. 

“The wind blew from the moment we teed off until the end of the round. I just decided that I wasn’t going to fight the wind all day and would just try and keep my ball in play,” he said.

And his short game carried him to the top of the leaderboard.

“My putting saved me today. There were a couple of times where I made some big putts for par. I’m just going to try and do the same in the final round. I don’t want to think too much about it actually, especially not when I look at the experience of the professionals I’m playing with.”

Experience will certainly be the key in Thursday’s final round.

“You know, the conditions could be different again,” said Cheetham. “But that’s where the experience comes in. You need to keep an open mind and see what tomorrow brings.” – Michael Vlismas

Photo: Michael Sheehan

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Kingston takes the lead in Nelson Mandela Bay Classic

11th May 2021

Kingston takes the lead in Nelson Mandela Bay Classic

James Kingston continued where he left off on the Sunshine Senior Tour as he opened with a three-under-par 69 to lead the first round of the R500 000 Nelson Mandela Bay Classic at Humewood Golf Club on Tuesday.

Kingston, who recently defended his South African Senior Open title, leads by one shot over André Cruse and Roger Wessels.

The leaderboard remains tight thereafter as well, with Michael Scholz and Chris Williams well placed following their opening rounds of one-under 71. Amateur Muyanda Zingela made a good start to join Callie Swart and Neil Cheetham with rounds of level-par 72. And Mark McNulty, one of the biggest names in a quality field this week, signed for a three-over-par 75 in his first competitive round in several weeks.

Kingston was delighted with his start to this 54-hole tournament on a day when the classic Humewood links was in a forgiving mood.

“I would’ve taken a start of three under if you’d offered it to me before the tournament. The conditions were decent on my first nine and then the wind picked up a little bit, which just made it tricky enough to test us. But it’s always just such a pleasure coming back to what has always been a great golf course, and to the city of Gqeberha as well,” he said.

Kingston played Humewood’s back nine first and bogeyed his opening hole. But then he made back-to-back birdies at holes 15 and 16 followed by an eagle on the 17th where he holed his pitch shot. Another loose shot on the second led to a double bogey there, but again Kingston pulled it back with three more birdies against just one bogey over the closing holes.

Kingston clearly used the competitive edge he gained by competing against the young stars on the Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour over the past three weeks.

“Obviously it’s nice to be able to compete with the young guys on the Sunshine Tour and it keeps the game sharp and the competitive juices flowing, even though it’s tough to beat the youngsters of today. But it’s nice to play with that next generation, and then come out here and play with your old fellow pros.

“It’s always nice to see all the old faces, and to see somebody like Mark McNulty out here still competing is great. There are so many of these players I grew up playing golf with, and to share the fairways with them on our only proper links, which is in pristine condition, is just a wonderful feeling.” – Michael Vlismas

Photo: Michael Sheehan

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Higgo powers to another European Tour title

10th May 2021

Higgo powers to another European Tour title

Garrick Higgo continued to write his own chapter in the European Tour history books as he powered to a second win in three weeks at the 2021 Canary Islands Championship.
Just 14 days after he lifted the trophy at the Gran Canaria Lopesan Open with a European Tour record low score of 255, a closing 64 with a hole-in -one moved him to 27 under and handed him a six shot victory at Golf Costa Adeje.
Australian Maverick Antcliff was the nearest challenger, one shot clear of Finn Tapio Pulkkanen, with home favourite Adri Arnaus, last week’s winner Dean Burmester, Dane Nicolai Højgaard, England’s Andrew Johnston and Irishman Niall Kearney at 19 under.
But all eyes were on Higgo as he took his score across the 12 rounds of the Canary Islands Swing to 68 under and sent records tumbling.
A third European Tour win in just his 26th event makes him the fastest South African to three wins not including Majors and World Golf Championships, and he also matches the record of Tiger Woods for the fewest number of events needed to claim three European/PGA TOUR wins since 1990.
The 21-year-old also becomes the fourth youngest player to three European Tour wins and beats countryman Burmester’s mark for the largest winning margin on the 2021 Race to Dubai set last week.
With Burmester’s win being sandwiched by Higgo’s two, this is the first time that we have had three consecutive South African winners on the European Tour since 2012, and it is the first time that feat has ever been achieved outside of South Africa.
It has been a remarkable run for South African golf of late, with Brandon Stone, J C Ritchie and Wilco Nienaber also making it three wins in a row for the Rainbow Nation on the European Challenge Tour.
Higgo moves up to fifth on the Race to Dubai Rankings in Partners hip with Rolex and also moves to the brink of entering the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time.
“It feels amazing, I am happy to be done now. I am very tired but really happy and thankful. I did (feel pressure) from the start. It is not easy to lead, the other day was my first time, and in this game anything can happen. It’s unreal. I can’t believe it has happened so quickly again, but my game has been good so I can believe it as well. It feels good. I have been working really hard on a lot of little things and I have also accepted what works for me and kind of stuck with that. I think that has been a big thing. If I don’t play as well, I don’t look for something, so I am
going to try and keep going.” – European Tour
Photo: Getty
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Wilco gets the win in Dimension Data Pro-Am

9th May 2021

Wilco gets the win in Dimension Data Pro-Am

Wilco Nienaber made it a hat-trick of victories for South Africa in three consecutive weeks on the European Challenge Tour when he won the Dimension Data Pro-Am in a playoff at Fancourt on Sunday.

After finishing tied for the lead with Swede Henric Sturehed on 19 under par on the Montagu course, Nienaber claimed his first professional title with a par on the third playoff hole.

“I’m so excited and quite emotional. It’s a lot of hard work that I put in to get this win,” said a tearful Nienaber, who struggled to get through his victory speech as he tried to explain the emotion of not being able to have his family at the golf course to celebrate with him.

“I’m a very family-orientated guy. We have a very close bond in our family. A lot of this is thanks to them that I was able to win today. It’s crazy how much they have supported me,” he said.

The R6 million Dimension Data Pro-Am was the last of the three tournaments that formed part of the Sunshine Tour and European Challenge Tour’s co-sanctioned South African Swing.

Brandon Stone won the opening Limpopo Championship and JC Ritchie claimed the Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open, and then Nienaber completed the local dominance with his victory at Fancourt.

Nienaber started the final round three strokes behind the leaders. After thinking he had missed his chance when he made a bogey on the par-five ninth hole, Nienaber produced a strong back nine of five birdies to make it into the playoff with a 65. Sturehed signed for a bogey-free 66 to seal his spot in the playoff.

Playing the par-five 18th in the playoff, both golfers parred the hole twice before Nienaber won with a par to Sturehed’s bogey on the third occasion.

“I had a target to get to -20 in regulation play and I messed it up on nine. I felt like I gave it away there with that six. So I had an attacking mindset for the back nine. I needed to go out and win it. He wasn’t coming back and he was holing every putt he looked at,” said Nienaber.

“It’s great having a Challenge Tour card, but that’s not the goal. I need to start playing on the European Tour again and hopefully get into a few Majors next year.” – Michael Vlismas

Photo: Carl Fourie/Sunshine Tour