Jaco Ahlers didn’t drop a single shot in the final round of the King’s Cup at Royal Swazi Spa Golf Club on Saturday as he cruised to a three-stroke victory for his eighth Sunshine Tour title.
In fact, he made just one bogey all week as he carded six-under-par 66 to leave Daniel Greene in second place on 16-under-par for the tournament, with Alex Haindl and Estiaan Conradie sharing third a further shot back.
Despite such apparently flawless golf, Ahlers still felt the pressure as he moved towards what became an inevitable victory as the day wore on. “I did enjoy the day out there, but I made it a bit more difficult than I wanted,” he said. “I had to make up and down a few times which I didn’t have to do on the first few days and that made it a bit more stressful.”
It was a round in which he made scoring on the four par-fives count for him. Birdies on each of them – he missed out on birdie just once on the par-fives the whole week when he made par on the fifth in the first round – meant he had a solid base on which to build his victory.
“Coming down the stretch, the birdie on 17 meant a lot because it made the tee shot on 18 a lot easier,” he said of the final par-five birdie for the week. “I would have like to have made the final round even less stressful but it’s in the books and that’s all that counts.”
Part of the stress came from the fact that he hadn’t won since February 2018, and that he had lost his playing privileges on the European Tour. “It’s been a tough few months,” he said. “I took some time off, didn’t play in the previous tournament in Swaziland and had two months at home. I just had to reflect on a few things and start working on them. It’s nice to see the work come off.
“It’s great to get some form going, with the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on the European Tour in two or three weeks. Then it’s the push to end the season and try and get my card for Europe for next year – so this win is a big leap forward.
“It doesn’t change my mindset for the next few months. I just keep working at it and try and smooth some things over. If it wasn’t for the putter this week, it would have been different. I hit it nicely for the first two days and today wasn’t as good as it was. There are a few things to work on – Europe is a bit of a bigger stage and if you make a few mistakes, you really get penalised. So I’m just going to keep working hard.”
Greene continued to show that he has the wherewithal to win with his second consecutive six-under-par 66 to go with his opening 68. It was just not enough to threaten Ahlers, and neither was the 67 from Haindl nor the 69 from Conradie.
Behind them, Jaco Prinsloo, Neil Schietekat, Philip Geerts and Peetie van der Merwe finished in a share of fifth on 14-under-par.
For Ahlers, it’s all about taking the confidence he gains from this win and running with it. “Confidence makes a big difference, and it’s been down the last few months, and this gives me a lot of confidence that I can still do it,” he said. “I still had my doubts coming down the last two holes. As a golfer, you always tend to think negatively, so it’s a big plus to see that I could pull it off.”