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26th June 2023

Sheer winning pleasure for Lawrence in Munich

Thriston Lawrence claimed his second win of the season as he overhauled Joost Luiten on a dramatic final day in Germany to take the title at the BMW International Open.

The South African entered the final day at Golfclub München Eichenried four shots behind his rival but had reeled him in by the turn before back-to-back three-putts on the 12th and 13th left him two behind with five to play.

The 17th then proved critical as Lawrence hit a stunning tee-shot to set up a birdie and Luiten three-putted the par-three to drop out of the lead for the first time all day.

Lawrence parred the last for a 69 to finish at 13 under and with Luiten unable to make a birdie on the par-five, the 26-year-old was left celebrating a fourth DP World Tour title.

Luiten’s closing 74 left him a shot ahead of Kiwi Daniel Hillier, Japan’s Rikuya Hoshino, local favourite Maximilian Kieffer and Pole Adrian Meronk.

Lawrence was the first winner of the DP World Tour era last season at the Joburg Open and he added another title at the Omega European Masters en route to being crowned the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year.

Another win in his homeland at the Investec South African Open Championship came at the start of this season but that was his last worldwide top ten and Lawrence cut an emotional figure as he reflected on a fourth win in 19 months.

“It means a lot,” he said, fighting back tears after becoming just the second South African to win this trophy after the great Ernie Els.

“There’s been a lot of hard work. I went to America for six weeks and made one cut – this game is not easy. It was a real boost today and I really gave it my all. I feel sorry for Joost, I know how tough this game is.

“I don’t know why I’m so emotional but obviously it just shows that it means the world and to get my fourth victory in Germany is unbelievable.

“I seem to win a lot of events that Ernie has won. It’s special, he’s obviously the ultimate hero for me. I grew up in that era where he was on top of the world and it’s very special to to get my name along alongside him.”

Lawrence holed a 46-footer at some pace on the second and followed it with a left-to-righter from 23 feet on the next to get within two of the leader after a quick start.

A Luiten three-putt on the third saw the lead down to one but Lawrence found the hazard on the fifth and had to take a drop, surrendering his first shot of the day.

The advantage was up to three as Luiten holed from 17 feet on the fifth but Lawrence got up and down on the par-five sixth and then hit a wonderful approach to four feet at the next to trim the advantage back to one.

Lawrence missed the green at the eighth to give up a bogey but Luiten three-putted again from the fringe at the seventh and a Lawrence birdie after laying up at the par-five ninth had him tied at the top.

The roller coaster continued for Lawrence when he found sand and dropped a shot at the tenth and, after it had been a two-horse race over the front nine, there were now five players within three shots of Luiten.

Lawrence was back in a share of the lead after laying up at the par-five 11th but back-to back three-putts dropped him two behind and all of a sudden, Kieffer was the nearest challenger.

He had birdied the first after a smart approach but gave the shot back on the the third before making it birdies on all four days at both the sixth and ninth to turn in 34.

He continued his remarkable record on the par-fives with an eagle from 28 feet at the 11th and an approach to ten feet had him within one before he found water at the 16th and dropped a shot.

That gave Luiten his two-shot cushion back but it would not last for long as Lawrence holed a remarkable 36-foot left-to-righter that went over a mound and through the fringe on the 15th before he put his tee-shot to five feet at the 17th for an eighth birdie of the day.

There were then gasps around the 17th green as Luiten missed from three feet and a third three-putt of the day meant that, for the first time in the round, the Dutchman was off the top of the leaderboard and needed a birdie up the last for a play-off after Lawrence finished his round with just a fifth par of the day.

Luiten hit a tree off the 18th tee which forced him to lay up and while he had a chance to birdie from the fringe, he missed from 25 feet and Lawrence was the victor.

Kieffer carded a 68, the same score as Meronk, with Hoshino signing for a 69 and Hillier recording a 71 to finish a shot ahead of Dutchman Daan Huizing, Dane Rasmus Neergaard-Petersen and Frenchman Matthieu Pavon. – DP World Tour

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14th June 2023

SA young guns target US Open glory

The South African contingent in this week’s US Open will one of the youngest in the history of this Major as a new generation of the country’s golfers start making their presence felt at the highest level of the game.

Retief Goosen was the last South African winner of the US Open in 2004, and this week the quartet of Deon Germishuys, Thriston Lawrence, Wilco Nienaber and amateur Aldrich Potgieter will represent an entirely new generation attempting to add to the country’s tally of five US Open titles.

The average age of the four young South Africans who will tee it up at the Lost Angeles Country Club from Thursday is 23, with the youngest (Potgieter) being 18 and the oldest (Lawrence) 26.

The US Open has certainly favoured youth of late. The last three US Open champions have all been under the age of 30, and this year’s US Open field includes 13 golfers who are 21 years old or younger.

A total of three of the four South Africans will be making their US Open debuts amongst the 47 players in the field who are playing in their first US Open. Of the South Africans, only Nienaber has played in one US Open before this in 2021 where he finished tied 68th at Torrey Pines.

This year’s US Open drew a record number of 10 187 entries.

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2nd June 2023

Otto wins SunBet Challenge in playoff

SUN CITY, North-West – With his putter finally starting to fire, Hennie Otto began the final round of the SunBet Challenge hosted by Sun City with a birdie and just continued in that vein before making par at the first playoff hole to win the title at Gary Player Country Club on Friday.

Otto began the third and final day three shots off the lead, and apart from his three at the par-four first hole, he enjoyed the ideal start to his pursuit of his 14th Sunshine Tour title by collecting four more birdies between the sixth and 10th holes.

A veteran campaigner like Otto was not going to be overawed by the occasion either, as a trio of other contenders – Hayden Griffiths, Jovan Rebula and Martin Rohwer – also jostled fiercely for the top spot. On a windy day on one of the toughest courses in South Africa, Otto came home in one-under 35, for a final round of 67, thanks to another birdie on the par-five 14th.

A bogey on the par-three 16th was his only blemish, but the 46-year-old Otto showed the stuff of champions as he parred the testing last two holes to finish on six-under-par for the tournament, joining Griffiths in a playoff.

The 29-year-old Griffiths had shot a tremendous 66, also with just one bogey, to join Otto in the playoff, a clutch birdie on the par-three 16th sealing his place.

Unfortunately, Griffiths hit his drive on the first playoff hole, the famous ninth at Gary Player Country Club with its island green, way left into the bushes and had to hack out. With Otto just off the fairway on the right, the Johannesburg-based Griffiths had to go for the green with his third, pulled it left and landed in the water.

That left Otto with the routine task of laying up, finding the green and two-putting for the win.

“My game has been so good lately but my scores have not shown it because my putting has not been up to standard,” Otto said after his second victory on the Gary Player Country Club course following his victory there in the 2011 Dimension Data Pro-Am.

“But today my putter started showing what it can do. Because I’ve been playing so well, I knew another win was close. On this course, in all the years I’ve played here, it’s all about hitting the fairway and making sure you don’t hit your ball in the wrong place. But it was even tougher today because of the wind and in the cold morning, your ball doesn’t travel so far.

“On 16, I had no real shot from the bunker and then I just had to make sure I made a four. And then it was just about making sure I parred 17 and 18. I actually nearly birdied the last hole, but my putt just lipped out.

“And then the playoff hole just became a formality after Hayden unfortunately hit his approach into the water,” Otto said.

Rohwer and Rebula both finished one shot behind on five-under-par and both showed excellent technical expertise on one of the most challenging courses in the world, before succumbing to late errors that proved very costly.

Rohwer was on eight-under-par and leading by two after he birdied the par-five 14th hole, but then dropped a shot at the 15tth and then double-bogeyed the par-four 17th, finishing with a 67 that was not quite enough.

Rebula had reached seven-under through 13 holes, but then bogeys on the 15th and 18th holes left him with a 70 and saw him fall just short of the playoff.

Keelan van Wyk, who led after the first two rounds of the three-round tournament, unfortunately saw his game suffer a meltdown on Friday as he posted an 80 to finish on four-over-par, in a tie for 33rd place.

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1st June 2023

Keelan holds on to lead in SunBet Challenge

SUN CITY, North-West – Keelan van Wyk made a few silly mistakes on the front nine at Gary Player Country Club on Thursday and paid the price, but the CMR Golf Club representative can feel immensely proud of the way he bounced back to retain the lead after the second round of the SunBet Challenge hosted by Sun City.

Despite going out in four-over-par 40, Van Wyk showed his temperament by rectifying most of the damage with four birdies and just a single bogey on the back nine, to sign for 73. The going was so tough at the Gary Player Country Club on Thursday, however, that his one-over-par score was still enough for him to hang on to the lead. The 24-year-old will go into Saturday’s final round on four-under overall, one stroke ahead of Toto Thimba Jnr (72), Fredrik From (71), Jovan Rebula (69) and Matthew Spacey (72).

Van Wyk birdied the par-four first hole on Thursday, but that was followed by three successive bogeys. A double-bogey seven at the ninth then would have been enough, to paraphrase the words of the classic Boomtown Rats song I Don’t Like Mondays, to switch the silicon chip inside his head to overload were it not for Van Wyk’s impressive composure. He rebounded with birdies on the 10th and 11th holes, and was on his way back to the top of the leaderboard.

“I made a few mistakes on the front nine and it was just a very intense round of golf. I battled off the tee and on the ninth I went way left and lost my ball, leading to the double-bogey,” Van Wyk explained.

“But I just told myself that I had now hit my low and I could not go any lower. I just channelled my thoughts and my focus on spiralling back up again. I just tried to take it shot-for-shot and stay in the moment.

“My caddy Lloyd also helped a lot, he was quite composed. We were chatting about how the golf course is so difficult, it feels like if you make one mistake then you’re going to drop back a few places, but every player will make mistakes. You can see that from the scores,” Van Wyk said.

Adding to the typically testing set-up of the Gary Player Country Club, there was a swirling wind on Thursday that would con the golfers into thinking it was going one way, but then switch directions on the same hole.

“The course was tough and the wind was swirling as well. It was just never in one direction,” Van Wyk said.

Rebula led the charge of the domestic golfers on Thursday with a brilliant three-under 69 that included just one dropped shot, on the par-four 17th.

Spacey started his round on the 10th and made two birdies in his first four holes to claim the lead. But a bogey on the 15th and another one on the seventh hole saw him slip back, while Thimba Jnr survived three successive bogeys from the eighth hole to still post a level-par 72 and remain strongly in contention.

Sweden’s From was the leading overseas golfer, mixing six birdies with five bogeys in his round.

Three more South Africans, Jonathan Broomhead (70), Michael Hollick (70) and Kyle Barker (72) are two strokes back on two-under-par.