FOR Christiaan Bezuidenhout the birdie putts are dropping at such a fast and furious pace that it’s resulted in him not only enjoying a rapid rise in the world rankings, but a bank balance that is soaring to heady heights and will further climb in Mexico this week.
When Rambo (the nickname given to him as a child after his favourite actor Sylvester Stallone) rammed home an eagle putt at the 72nd hole in the Dimension-Data Pro-Am at Fancourt on Sunday it gave him a fabulous four-round aggregate of 25-under-par 264, victory by one over George Coetzee and a handy little R951 000 cheque. Last year on the European Tour – highlighted by his maiden win on that tour in the Andalucia Masters – he made over 1,5-million euros, which translates to somewhere in the region of R24-million. And this year he’s again been raking in the cash on that tour, already closing in on 400 000 euros (getting into a play-off for the title in the Dubai Desert Classic before losing to Australia’s Lucas Herbert helped his cause) so that’s another R6-million.
But let’s forget the money for a moment. The 25-year-old’s exploits both at home and overseas have seen him quickly rise to 48th in the world rankings following his Fancourt victory, so he is now the second best ranked South African golfer after Louis Oosthuizen who is 17th.
Now if he can stay inside the top 50 until the week before the year’s first Major, the April 9-12 Masters, he’ll earn himself a coveted debut in that tournament.
The Sunshine Tour’s end-of-season Tour Championship is being played at his home course, Serengeti, this week. But Rambo (and who can blame him?) is skipping it because his hot golf has earned him a place, for the first time, in the WGC-Mexico Championship also taking place this week. He joins fellow South Africans Branden Grace, Justin Harding, Zander Lombard, Shaun Norris, Oosthuizen and Erik van Rooyen in the 72-man field in a no-cut event stacked with world ranking points and a hefty $10,5-million purse. Yes, that translates into a whopping R150-million.
It’s been well-documented by now, but Bezuidenhout almost died as a two-year-old having mistakenly drank rat poison from a cola can, which resulted in a stammer, severe anxiety and a temporary ban after a drug test revealed the medication he was using included a substance which was illegal in the sport. His ban was reduced to nine months when it was determined he had not used the substance for performance-enhancing purposes. He’s come a long way since then. He’s an overcomer of note and may well be South African golf’s next superstar. Like fictional tough guy Stallone, Rambo is using his skills in many aspects of survival and combat (with club in hand!) to shoot low numbers on the golf course.
South Africa’s Top 10 in the world rankings:
1 Louis Oosthuizen (17)
2 Christiaan Bezuidenhout (48)
3 Erik van Rooyen (52)
4 Shaun Norris (61)
5 Branden Grace (71)
6 Justin Harding (91)
7 Dylan Frittelli (118)
8 JC Ritchie (120)
9 Dean Burmester (160)
10 George Coetzee (169)
Written by Randpark Member Grant Winter.