A first outing at Augusta National turned into a dream performance as Justin Harding left the course R3.1-million richer, with the invitation to do it all again next year.
The South African, more at home on the Sunshine and Asian Tours, shrugged off a missed cut at the Valero Texas Open to enjoy one of the best debut weeks at The Masters in the tournament’s history.
A final round 72 – ended off with a brilliant birdie on the last – saw the 33-year-old narrowly miss out on two pieces of history. Only one player on debut has finished with four rounds under-par – Fuzzy Zoeller en route to his win in 1979 – and Harding’s total score was four shots off Jason Day’s tally as the best score on debut.
That puts the performance of Harding into context, as he left The Masters with the honour of being South Africa’s top performer and with the financial boost of a cheque worth R3.1-million – or $225 400.
SA’s top-ranked golfer, Louis Oosthuizen, tumbled down the leaderboard on Sunday and slumped to a 75 that saw him finish in a share of 29th; he still took away R1.1m.
Remaining South Africans:
Trevor Immelman finished T51 for R401 294
Branden Grace finished T58th for R352 232
Charl Schwartzel and Jovan Rebula (a) missed the cut