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16th June 2024

Viljoen bags third Sunshine Tour title at Mopani Zambia Open

KITWE (Zambia) – Overnight leader MJ Viljoen went out in three-under 33 but would follow that with an even better four-under-par 32 coming in, to cruise to a six-stroke victory in the Mopani Zambia Open at Nkana Golf Club on Sunday.

Viljoen’s brilliant final-round 65 lifted him to 16-under-par for the R2.5 million event, well clear of local favourite Dayne Moore, who shot 70 on Sunday to finish on 10-under-par.

The Serengeti Estates golfer has not won since September 2022 and his emotional triumph on Sunday follows a tough time in which he finished 64th in last season’s Order of Merit delivered by The Courier Guy, the first time he had finished outside the top-30 since 2018/19.

“I needed this win big time and I am very proud of myself for pulling it through. I’ve worked hard for the last few months and it feels really good to get this result. I lost a lot of playing rights last season, so it’s really good to be back in the winner’s circle,” Viljoen said.

The 29-year-old had started the final round with a one-stroke lead over Jacques P. de Villiers and Moore, with the next closest contenders being five strokes back in Heinrich Bruiners, Fredrik From and Kyle Barker.

But neither De Villiers nor Moore were able to keep up with Viljoen as he birdied the fourth, sixth and seventh holes. Viljoen’s only bogey on Sunday came on the par-four 10th hole, cutting his lead to two strokes, but he rebounded superbly with three successive birdies. The coup de grace was an eagle on the 527m par-five 17th.

Having secured an albatross on the fourth on the first day, he birdied the 484m par-five in the last two rounds, and he said his shots on that hole will be one of his favourite memories when he thinks back on his third Sunshine Tour title.

“My shots on four, I almost had a hole-in-one today on the seventh, and the eagle on 17 nearly went in for another albatross, those will be my favourite memories. And also the fans. I played with Dayne Moore on Saturday and so many youngsters were following us around, there was just noise all the time and it was awesome,” Viljoen said.

Zambia’s Moore birdied the first hole to draw level with Viljoen on nine-under, but was four behind by the turn, having dropped a shot on the par-four eighth. A birdie on the 10th saw a two-shot swing and he matched Viljoen with birdies on the 11th and 12th holes, but bogeys on 13 and 16 were his undoing.

Despite an eagle on the par-five 12th, De Villiers battled to build momentum as he mixed two bogeys and a double on the last with three birdies, posting a 71 that left him in third place on nine-under-par.

South Africans Daniel van Tonder (-6) and Barker (-5) rounded out the top five.