A three-birdie burst in the middle of the final nine holes of the R700,000 Vodacom Origins of Golf tournament at Simola Golf and Country Estate on Saturuday saw Justin Harding pull away for his fifth victory as a professional.
He picked up strokes on the 13th, 14th and 15th on his way to a final-round two-under-par 70, enough for a one-stroke edge over Ockie Strydom who had fired a brilliant 11-under-par 61 to set the clubhouse target at 13-under-par 203, nearly an hour ahead of Harding.
‘Ockie posted an unbelievable score, something that I didn’t think was out there. His round today was a kick in the butt, and that helped me stay focused,’ said Harding.
‘I didn’t start that well,’ he said of his opening nine of two-over-par 38, which included four bogeys. ‘But I managed to get a couple of good putts to go in. The first one came on 13, but 14 was pretty much the crucial one. It was about a 20-footer, downhill left to right and it managed to just creep into the hole.
‘It was not so much the birdie putts that helped me today. The good little tester from six feet I made on 16 after I hit a good tee shot into the fairway bunker and then played two very shaky little shots – I managed to make that,’ he added.
He also made par on the par-five 18th after he found the greenside bunker with his second shot, and left himself a slippery little downhill eight-footer for birdie. It stopped right next to the hole and that putt, if others hadn’t already let him know, was confirmation that he’d putted well enough to win.
He also had a touch of luck as he overcooked his tee shot on the short 17th, his ball bouncing off a sprinkler head back onto the green some 30 feet from the flag.
Strydom’s round was fully six-strokes better than the next best of the final round, Ryan Cairns’ five-under 67. It was characterised by an unrelenting string of birdies around the turn – he made four before it and three after it. His only regret would be that he missed out on birdie on only one of the five par-fives on the course.
For Harding, winning bought a sense of relief. ‘I’ve had a bit of a lean spell,’ he said. ‘It hasn’t been the greatest of years, and I guess all I really needed was to get the feeling of making a few putts. Once that happens, I know I’ve got a low score in me.’
That came in his second-round 64, which set him up for victory.