ANYONE who watched the TV footage of Garrick Higgo winning the European Tour’s GranCanaria Lopesan Open on Sunday will have been hugely impressed by this exceptionally talented 21-year-old South African.
He’s a lefthander and the commentators aptly described his brilliant short game – his chipping and putting – as “Mickelson-esque”. We all know how much touch Phil Mickelson has and Higgo’s game pretty much mirrors the American’s around the greens. As the saying goes, he’s got the touch of a pick-pocket.
And while he’s not a particularly big man, boy, can he hit the ball.
He ended off his par-smashing week with a 371-yard corker up the middle at the closing hole, a par-5, and finding the putting surface from there with no more than a sand-wedge on his way to a closing birdie four.
Okay, this par-70 Canary Islands course is not the toughest on the planet, but rounds of 65, 64, 63 and 63 for a sizzling 25-under-par 255 aggregate was magnificent golf by the sweet-swinging Garrick who finished three clear of runner-up Max Kieffer of Germany. Higgo bagged 230 500 euros for the win, which is almost exactly R4-million.
When Higgo was just nine years old his father died but he has been mentored by none other than Gary Player. “I actually spoke to Gary on Saturday night when I had the 54-hole lead and he just said there is no such thing as a lead and you should play like you’re two behind going into the final round, and that was my strategy,” he revealed in an interview with the European Tour.
Curiously enough, he looks a bit like Player looked when the great man was in his early twenties. Similar smile, similar physique, And with a similar short game to Mickelson, Higgo certainly seems to be going places fast!
“Winning again is unreal,” he added. “Jeez, I can’t put it into words, it feels amazing. It’s quite a relief as it wasn’t over until the last hole really, I knew anything could happen, especially with the wind coming up. It was a bit stressful. I am just going to keep going forward. I am playing this week and next week (both events also in the Canary Islands) and I’ll see where my game goes. It feels good, I have worked really hard with my coach Cliff Barnard.”
Winning again refers to the fact that Higgo scored his maiden victory at last season’s Open de Portugal at Royal Óbidos and this came in just his seventh start on the European Tour. And this success on Sunday was just his 24th start. That makes him the fastest South African with two wins in European Tour history not including Major Championships, and the victory also moves him up to a career best 65th in the world rankings. He turned professional in 2019 and won twice on the Sunshine Tour that year. He tied for fourth in the Austrian Golf Open two Sundays back and, late last year, played in the Joburg Open here at Randpark and made the cut. His schooling was at Paul Roos Gymnasium in Stellenbosch and he was ranked South Africa’s No 1 amateur before joining the paid ranks.
The result also secured a South African double at the weekend, with Brandon Stone having won the Limpopo Championship on the European Challenge Tour earlier in the day. And completing a hot Sunday for South African golf were Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel who tied Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith at the top of the leaderboard in the PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans pairs event only to lose to the Australian duo in a play-off.
Written by Randpark member Grant Winter.