A birdie-birdie finish for a fourth place finish in the Sunshine Ladies Tour Dimension Data Challenge pushed Comeback Kid Kiran Matharu to the summit in the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies standings on Sunday.
The 27-year-old English golfer will start the Sunshine Ladies Tour Classic, sponsored by Canon, on Tuesday with just the slenderest of margins.
She is a mere 255 points ahead of Nicole Garcia, who triumphed at Fancourt, and she has a less than 300 point lead on Ashleigh Buhai, also a winner this season.
The Leeds golfer put her fans on notice with a top three finish in the season-opening SuperSport Ladies Challenge in early January. She steadily climbed the standings with a fistful of top five finishes before she claimed a magnificent wire-to-wire victory in the Ladies Tshwane Open to pronounce herself a top contender for the R1-million season-finale at Millvale Private Retreat in March.
Even if Matharu surrenders the top spot at Glendower Golf Club, the last seven weeks in South Africa has reshaped Matharu’s career.
The Englishwoman had a long list of achievements as a junior and she backed up a victory in the Faldo Series with the English Ladies Amateur Championship title before she joined the pro ranks in 2006.
She won the Volvo Cross Country Challenge – an order of merit based on results in the Scandinavian TPC, SAS Masters, Finnair Masters and Nykredit Masters – in her second season and kept her card going until her career hit the skids and she lost her tour status completely in 2012.
A series of injuries that led to a loss of form and confidence and even a bout of the yips left the poster girl for Asian golf at a crossroads, but Matharu was not ready to except defeat.
Thanks to a cricket physiotherapist, her swing issues were finally diagnosed.
Matharu’s problems stemmed from locked hips, but with long hours working on the game, a lot of hard graft in the gym, physiotherapy, and her unwavering belief that she could turn things around, she has come full circle.
A tie for third at the WPGA International Challenge, a tie for seventh on the LETAS Tour and ninth in the Hero Women’s Indian Open last year signalled a return to form.
And here, on the Sunshine Ladies Tour, Matharu is getting back to her best.
Buhai won the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies at Glendower in 2014 and Garcia scored her maiden breakthrough at the BMW SA Open venue in 2015. Both players will be hunting repeat success, but the pair agree that Matharu is becoming tougher to beat.
‘Kiran has just [become] stronger and better each week and she’ll want to protect that number one spot at all cost,’ said Buhai, who missed the R500 000 showpiece in George last week for the LPGA Tour’s Australian Women’s Open.
‘I played with Kiran in the final round of the Ladies Tshwane Open and I know she will be tough to beat. She is a very tough opponent, because she never lets up.’
Garcia believes Matharu has the form and determination to go all the way to the finish line.
‘She definitely has the game and the experience and she’s shown week in, week out that she is a top contender,’ said the Benoni golfer. ‘That’s what makes this year’s Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies so exciting. Kiran is an iron lady, Ash is coming into really great form and I am so confident after the win in George. With Lee-Anne Pace and Carrie Park out of the country, this week is going to be a huge battle between the three of us.’
By Lali Stander