Ge­orge Co­et­zee is again No 1.

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Contents -

Vic­tory in the Tsh­wane Open clinched an­other Or­der of Merit ti­tle for Ge­orge Co­et­zee on the Sun­shine Tour. Co­et­zee claimed his first Sid Brews Tro­phy in 2015, and his con­tin­ued sup­port for the tour means that he could win a few more in the years ahead. way Full he credit sup­ports to Co­et­zee the Sun­shine for the Tour, even now at age 31. He’s been on the Euro­pean Tour since 2010 – with four wins – but al­ways finds time to play as many home events as it takes to be el­i­gi­ble on the tour which gave him his ground­ing in the pro game. He’s played in 60 Sun­shine Tour events since first be­com­ing a mem­ber of the Euro­pean Tour in 2010.

Sev­eral play­ers were in the run­ning for Or­der of Merit hon­ours en­ter­ing the co-sanc­tioned Tsh­wane Open at Pre­to­ria CC, the tour’s penul­ti­mate event. With Mau­ri­tius Open win­ner Dy­lan Frit­telli ab­sent af­ter an in­vite to the con­flict­ing WGC event in Mex­ico, the door was open for oth­ers. If once again there was to be a South African win­ner in Pre­to­ria, that player would likely be Or­der of Merit cham­pion.

Erik van Rooyen, 28, was lead­ing the Or­der of Merit on R2 mil­lion fol­low­ing his run­ner-up fin­ish in the Joburg Open, with J C Ritchie his clos­est pur­suer. Co­et­zee was way be­hind them, on R560 000, but first prize in the Tsh­wane Open was worth R2.38 mil­lion. BothVan Rooyen and Ritchie played well at Pre­to­ria CC, but Co­et­zee is tough to beat on his home course, and shot 67-64-68-67 to win by two. He’s now won the ti­tle twice since it re­turned to PCC, both times with scores of 266.

Ritchie, 24, was the sur­prise per­former on the 2017/18 Sun­shineTour. An­other Pre­to­ria prod­uct, like Co­et­zee, he won the open­ing event of the 25-tour­na­ment sea­son, the Zimba- bwe Open, and a third-place fin­ish in the BMW SA Open at Glendower, where he shot 65-65 at the week­end, drove him to No 3 on the Or­der of Merit. Quite a climb from No 44 in 2016/17. The Zim­babwe Open at Royal Harare could not have started any more dis­cour­ag­ingly for Ritchie. His open­ing tee shot went out of bounds, as did his next one. He opened with a 9 and was seven-over through seven holes. He was look­ing at his sixth con­sec­u­tive missed cut of the year. De­ter­mi­na­tion and a for­tu­nate hole-out with a 6-iron for an ea­gle

two saw him re­cover to shoot 74. He then went 18-un­der the next three rounds to tie Trevor Fisher and beat him in a play­off.

Ritchie is a grad­u­ate of the IGT Tour, rather than the ama­teur cir­cuit, and it took him two at­tempts at Q School to get his card on the Sun­shine Tour.

There were best sea­sons, too, for vet­er­ans Shaun Nor­ris and Jaco Ah­lers, both 35, and Ockie Stry­dom, 33. Nor­ris, thanks to a T-3 in the Joburg Open, had his first Or­der of Merit top 10, while Ah­lers fin­ished ninth with R1.14 mil­lion.The last five sea­sons he had ranked be­tween 13 and 18.

Ah­lers is a late bloomer, with four of his six wins com­ing in the last two years.Vic­tory in the DiData Pro-Am was his big­gest ac­com­plish­ment to date, par­tic­u­larly clos­ing with a 64 at Fan­court, eclips­ing his 2014 Cape Town Open tri­umph. It earns him a spot in the WGC-Bridge­stone In­vi­ta­tional on the PGA Tour in Au­gust.

Stry­dom had his first mil­lion-rand sea­son, mak­ing 20 cuts in 22 events. He is still look­ing for a first win, though, hav­ing been a run­ner-up 9 times, in­clud­ing four in 2017. Stry­dom had the most birdies, av­er­ag­ing 4.78 a round. In eight events he had at least 20 birdies – 25 in the Zam­bia Open. Un­sur­pris­ingly, he headed the putting stats, with 27.8 per round.

Ge­orge Co­et­zee.

Ockie Stry­dom.

Ge­orge Co­et­zee on his way to vic­tory in the Tsh­wane Open at Pre­to­ria CC.

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