Occupying first spot on the Sunshine Tour’s 2018-19 Order of Merit has not only seen Justin Harding rise up the world rankings and command respect wherever he plays on the local circuit, it has also earned him an invitation to play at the Bank BRI Indonesia Open this week.
Harding is yet to make his mark on the Asian Tour, having missed the cut at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open for three straight years in 2015, 2016 and 2017. This week, however, he has an opportunity to redeem himself at Pondok Indah Golf Course on Thursday.
On statistics alone, it is easy to assume Harding has every chance of making a mark on the Asian Tour.
His driving accuracy this season so far averages 58.4% while he averages 68% in hitting greens in regulation.
One aspect of his game he will be confident about, however, is making those putts when it counts the most. He is sixth on tour, averaging 92%, in birdies made this season.
In eSwatini alone, Harding made a total of 26 birdies at the Investec Royal Swazi Open over four rounds, and a further 20 birdies plus an eagle in three rounds at the Lombard Insurance Classic.
Also of importance for Harding going into this event will be the knowledge that when he has found himself in the sand, he has managed to save par on 74% of his attempts while he seems at home playing the par threes where he is ranked 10th on the Sunshine Tour with an average of 0.5 under par. He leads the pack in terms of the stroke average on par fours with a 0.75 under par on average.
The seven-time Sunshine Tour winner’s best round of the season so far is the 63 he made at Royal Swazi Spa Country Club during the fourth round of the Investec Royal Swazi Open. Other South Africans in the field with Harding are Jbe’ Kruger and Lyle Rowe. Zimbabwe’s Scott Vincent, who is riding a rich wave of form currently on the Asian Tour with five top 10s this season, will be looking to get into the top 10 of the Asian Tour Order of Merit from his current 11th spot.
Harding ended 2017 ranked No 712 on the Official World Golf Ranking, but this week he is ranked 166th. The Stellenbosch Golf Club player is already only R11,295 short of matching his winnings of R688,428 in the 2017-18 season on the Sunshine Tour and this is ahead of the halfway mark of the season.
A good finish in Indonesia this week would give him a good boost for the rest of the year back in South Africa.
Credit: Sunshine Tour