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VICTORY by Siya Kolisi’s fabulous Springboks in the Rugby World Cup final over England has now given the country’s golfers competing on the European Tour a new-found “winning mentality”.
“The guys were so, so inspiring, and have got us thinking if they can top the world so can we,” says Christiaan Bezuidenhout ahead of the tour’s three big-money “Final Series” events of the 2019 season, this week’s Turkish Airlines Masters at Royal Maxx Montgomerie, next week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City and the season-ending DP World Tour Challenge in Dubai after that.
“We – and by we I mean all the South African and England professionals who were in China last week for the WGC Championship – watched the game together on television in the Intercontinental Hotel in Shanghai.
With hangers on, there were about 100 of us and so much banter and shouting going on. And the English guys, led by Justin Rose, were making a bunch of noise at least to begin with .
“But Siya and the boys soon shut them up. What a win for the Boks! And now we’re feeling if the rugby players can do it so can we,” added Bezuidenhout who has played exceptionally well this year, winning the Analucia Masters for his debut European Tour win, a breakthrough success matched in 2019 by compatriots Justin Harding in the Qatar Masters, and Erik van Rooyen in the Scandinavian Invitation.
“I’m still tingling from what our guys did in Japan and, yes, we have all been inspired by the Boks,” said Van Rooyen. Richard Sterne agreed, revealing with a smirk that he had won “a bunch of bets” with players and caddies alike from the English contingent in China. And Harding echoed the sentiments of his fellow South Africans: “The Bokke were fantastic. Hopefully we golfers can do likewise.”
For Harding, this is his first time playing the Turkish Airlines Open and, of course, his first visit to the immaculate Montgomerie Maxx Royal golf course. “It’s been so many firsts for me this year. First full season on the European Tour, first win on the European Tour, and going back the last 18 to 20 months (in 2018 he won twice on the Asian Tour) it’s like 90 per cent of the time every week I’m playing a course somewhere in the world for the first time,” added the 33-year-old from Stellenbosch who, in his first Masters this year, knocked in a long putt on the 72nd hole for birdie to tie for 12th and earn himself a spot in next year’s Major at Augusta. Now first win looming in Turkey?
“And next week it’ll be my first time in the Nedbank. I’m so looking forward to teeing up in front of the home fans at Sun City and my mom and dad and other friends and family are going to be up there to watch me.”
The $7-million Turkish Airlines Open is restricted to the top 80 players in the Race to Dubai and the other South Africans in the line-up besides Bezuidenhout, Van Rooyen, Harding and six-time European Tour winner Sterne are George Coetzee and Justin Walters.
Coetzee, who won last week’s Vodacom Origins of Golf Final at Simola (blitzing the course with a 61 in the first round) and Walters, tied second in the Portugal Masters last month, have run into recent hot form and will be banking for much of the same here in Turkey.
Rose is bidding to win the tournament for the third straight year.
By Grant Winter in Turkey