Zander Lombard is enjoying an encouraging season, and this week he’ll get a taste of a maiden major when he tees up with the world’s best at the 145th Open Championship hosted at Royal Troon.
The 21-year-old could so easily have come into this week as a three-time European Tour winner, having led the Australian PGA Championship, Joburg Open, and Lyoness Open after 54 holes. The Woodhill Country Club member can only show a runner-up finish at the Joburg Open from those three chances, but should be stronger for his experiences as he takes on a new challenge this week.
He has shown the ability to shoot low rounds at tournaments, with rounds of 64 and 65 at the Joburg Open, 63 at the Tshwane Open and a few 67s in Europe. Unfortunately, he has struggled to see the job through, finishing second at the Joburg Open, fourth at the Australian PGA Championship, and fifth at the Lyoness Open.
The Pretoria resident did not play at the Scottish Open last week and his only links experience in tournament conditions came at the Dimension Data Pro-Am earlier this year.
Lombard finished in a share of 34th place in George, ending well with a final-round 67. He also had an opening-round 68, suggesting he can cope with the demands of links golf to a certain extent.
He ranks 16th on the European Tour in terms of stroke average and has an average driving distance of nearly 300 yards, so he doesn’t leave anything on the tee box. His putts per round rank him eighth on tour, but his weakness is actually finding the fairway and getting to the green in regulation, which may be to his detriment at Royal Troon.
Lombard’s shot at the weekend depends on his ability to find fairways on a more consistent basis, as the notorious rough that lies in wait for errant shots can contribute to high scores. Lombard’s driving distance may not be best suited to Royal Troon unless he can send low missiles down the fairway to counteract the expected strong winds this week.
A major appearance for Lombard was possibly the last thing on his mind when he started his 2016 campaign, and for someone who was expected to spend most of his time on the Challenge Tour this year, he has made quite an impression in his European Tour appearances.
This week’s chance is on the biggest stage in golf, and the youngster will look to give another display that will enhance his reputation and add to his 2016 earnings of a little over R4.2 million. Not bad for a 21-year-old.