Lyle Rowe is looking for more of the same in this week’s R1-million Lombard Insurance Classic over 54 holes at Royal Swazi Spa Country Club when he tees off as the tournament gets underway on Thursday.
It took just one bad shot for Rowe to lose last week’s Sunshine Tour Investec Royal Swazi Open title to Justin Harding, but his game has been looking good enough for a win for some time.
‘I’ve been playing well,’ said Rowe. ‘The results have been there or thereabouts, with a seventh and a 16th and a second [place finish], so I’ve definitely been playing well. I just need to finish it off.
‘It was just one bad shot. I was trying to hit it left on the par-three 18th and I just mishit it. I had to make sure I got it up the slope and didn’t leave it in the bunker or come back down the slope. I suppose pressure does strange things to people.’
He hit his recover shot long, missed the long par putt, and also the return for bogey which would still have won him the tournament.
But he’s not going to dwell on that too much. ‘Finishing second confirms you’re playing well and that a win is around the corner,’ he said. ‘I need to block out that one bad shot. Obviously, I’m going to think about it for a while, but these things happen in sport.’
With last week’s format – scoring was by Modified Stableford points – rewarding aggression, Rowe feels he is in pretty good shape to take on the course at Royal Swazi once again. ‘I’m hitting a lot of irons quite close,’ he said. ‘Even last week, I didn’t have to make too many long birdie putts, and that made things a bit less stressful. On the par-fives, I’m giving myself quite a lot of eagle chances, and that’s key to scoring in golf – making at least birdies on the par-fives.’
The format is back to stroke play, and that suits Rowe. ‘You have to work your way around the course,’ he said. ‘You can’t just smash it and then find it and hit again. You’ve got to make sure you miss it in certain places. You’ve got to use three-woods and four-irons off tees and those kinds of things. You’ve got to plot your way around instead of just pulling the driver out wherever you are and smashing it.’
He finds himself up against a raft of players who have rounded nicely into form at an early stage of the 2018-19 Sunshine Tour season. Harding is one of them. Alex Haindl and Oliver Bekker are two more, and they came third and sixth respectively last week on the same course.
Veteran Hennie Otto has also looked impressive, and, but if not for a poor second round last week he certainly would have finished better than seventh. The youngster Andre Nel also had a good week with his fifth-place finish.
But two players will have to be watched particularly closely. Peter Karmis won the tournament in 2009, closing with a brilliant 59, and he finished in a share of seventh last week, rounding nicely into form. And Merrick Bremner has won the title three times, in 2008, 2013 and 2016. He clearly enjoys it.
Rowe will have to block out all that noise if he is to win this week. ‘I’ll try and keep the same game plan, and keep that one double-bogey off the card,’ he said. ‘Hopefully the next time the opportunity comes around, I can close the deal.’
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