If birdies are the best way to build confidence, Anthony Michael must be brimming with conviction after he collected seven gains in a flawless display at Ruimsig Country Club to win the Race to Q-School #13 on Wednesday.
The 31-year-old Sunshine Tour campaigner held off a spirited charge from rookie Matthew Spacey to capture his second IGT Challenge Tour victory by two strokes on 18-under-par198.
Spacey was equally impressive as he matched Michael’s flawless seven under 65 to take second.
‘Matthew was just firing out there and he wouldn’t let up, so I had to step up my game,’ Michael said. ‘I played some exceptional golf and to shoot 18 under par at a championship layout like Ruimsig is a huge confidence booster ahead of the Eye of Africa PGA Championship.’
Earlier rounds of 67 and 66 left Michael two shots clear of Spacey starting final day.
‘I thought a two shot lead was a comfortable cushion and I never expected it to be such a close run battle,” he said. “I must admit that it was fabulous to have Matthew breathing down my neck.
‘I really had to dig deep and get aggressive out there. I had close shaves at the first three holes but the putts didn’t drop, and Matthew birdied the first and third to wipe out my lead. We both birdied the fourth, but then I made three birdies in a row from the seventh to take back the lead.’
Michael turned with a two shot lead after Spacey also gained a shot at the ninth and the rookie kept up the pressure with more gains at 10 and 13.
‘I knocked one in for a birdie at 12 and holed another birdie putt at 14 to protect the lead, but Matthew stayed on my heels. We both left a few out there, but we finished in style with a pair of birdies at the last hole. It was a lot of fun to get into a tight tussle again.’
Michael, who ranks ninth on the Sunshine Tour’s Order of Merit, missed the cut in last year’s Eye of Africa PGA Championship, which prompted him to tee it up on the country’s premier golf development tour this week.
‘I’m definitely not having a short week this year,’ he said. ‘I wanted to keep competitive after the BMW SA Open and this week highlighted a few things that I need to polish. I’m striking the ball really well and I’m hitting my irons beautifully, but the putter needs some attention.
‘The short stick is your bread and butter and I left a few out there. If I can get those to drop, I back myself this year at the Eye of Africa. It’s been great to see the talent coming through this week and to give these youngsters a target, the way the pros used to give us something to shoot for.’
By Lali Stander
All competitors RSA unless otherwise specified and amateurs indicated as AMA.
198 – Anthony Michael 67 66 65
200 – Matthew Spacey 68 67 65
202 – Ockert Strydom 70 67 65
204 – Ruan Korb AMA 70 66 68
205 – Jaco Prinsloo 69 67 69