Thomas Aiken added his name to the South Africans on playing duty at this week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge after a strong showing in Turkey.
Coming into the Turkish Airlines Open, it was last chance saloon for Aiken to seal a spot at Sun City.
He responded in style despite having to contend with a nasty stomach bug he contracted on Tuesday.
Aiken took care of business with rounds of 71, 65, 66 and 70 at the Regnum Carya’s championship course to tie for 10th on 12-under 278.
For his efforts, he bagged a cheque worth €110,962 (R1.8-million) and 126,275 points that guaranteed his start at Sun City from Thursday.
Still suffering from the effects of the bug, Aiken’s final round spoke volumes of his drive and determination to make the field for the seventh Rolex event.
‘The tour doctor Tim Sullivan and Soli [caddie Solomon Soli] deserve all the credit,’ said Aiken.
‘It’s been a really emotional week. First I didn’t think I’d be able to play on Thursday and barely got around the course. Friday I had that great round and I was playing so well that I thought I could even win this. Saturday I started great but the last nine holes are a blur.
‘I pretty much had no energy in the final round and I was shaking so much down the last three holes I could barely swing the club. Soli has been a rock, especially in the last round. He stayed patient and positive and just kept pushing me to the finish line.’
Aiken will see a specialist as soon as his flight touches down in South Africa, now that he is within striking distance of qualifying for the Race to Dubai finale, the DP World Tour Championship.
‘I’ve improved to 71st in the Race to Dubai and I’m taking a lot of confidence out of what I achieved here in Turkey. Now I just need another good week at Sun City.’
Aiken shared the positive headlines with countrymen Darren Fichardt and Trevor Immelman.
Fichardt started with three successive rounds of 68 and got it to 11 under before bogeys at the 16th and 18th saw him sign for a 71. His nine-under 279 total earned him a share of 23rd and he stayed around the 70-mark in the rankings.
The alternate for the last two years, Fichardt got the call he was waiting for on the morning of the first round. ‘I ended up tying for sixth, but I never want to go through that mad rush again,’ he said. ‘It’s great going home knowing my spot is guaranteed.
‘I’m looking forward to another good week at Sun City, because at least I can play those greens. The greens here in Turkey drove me crazy. I drove it incredibly well but I putted like a dog. Slope on the left, grain on the right. What do you do? Next week I’m back to what I know. If I can hit it as good as I did this week, I’ll be there come Sunday.’
Immelman had rounds of 72, 71, 69 and was five under in the final round before a lost ball at the last hole saw him finish with a 68 and joint 47th on four under with compatriot Dean Burmester.
‘I haven’t been at my best this week,’ the former Masters champion said. ‘I struggled with my long game, but I got it going a little in the last round. Then the lost ball at nine. I didn’t think a 68 would be good enough to get me into Sun City, though, but I’ve made it. Great to be going back.’
Immelman should have some really positive memories to draw on, having beaten the new world No 1 Rose for the title in 2007.
– By Lali Stander in Turkey