ON HIS Twitter account South African golfer Erik van Rooyen describes himself as “Dream Chaser, Birdie Maker”.
And the 29-year-old lived up to that mantra on Sunday in winning the Scandinavian Invitation, his maiden victory on the European Tour.
“It was always my dream to win in Europe and now that I’ve done it’s hard to describe how good it feels,” he said.
And birdie maker? Well, he certainly delivered on that front. He birdied five of the last six holes in the third round on his way to a six-under 64, and on the final day birdied six of the first 13 holes – again en route to a 64. So that was 11 birdies in a stretch of just 19 holes at Hills Golf and Sports Club in Gothenburg. Pretty explosive golf.
And in a thrilling final round battle with Matthew Fitzpatrick, Van Rooyen also birdied the last – sinking a gutsy 15-footer down the hill to the par-5 – to win by one from the Englishman with a 19-under-par aggregate of 261.
The South African was last season’s European Challenge Tour Graduate of the Year and up until Sunday had finished second three times on the European Tour, twice on the 2019 Race to Dubai. In December 2017, van Rooyen was runner-up in the Joburg Open, three strokes behind Shubhankar Sharma, right here at Randpark. “So I’d gone close a bunch of times and every time I’m in contention the question gets asked why can’t I close the deal? Well, I have now. I’m just so proud of myself and my caddie Alex and everybody, I’m over the moon.”
Van Rooyen, who is only in his second season on the European Tour, earned 250 000 euros for the victory and is now ninth in the Race to Dubai.
Big-hitting compatriot Dean Burmester also had a cracking weekend in Sweden with rounds of 62 and 68 to tie for third on 266.
Van Rooyen’s victory is the 150th in European Tour history by a South African and the fourth this 2019 season after Louis Oosthuizen won the South African Open, Justin Harding the Qatar Masters and Christiaan Bezuidenhout the Andalucia Masters.
By Grant Winter