Kempton Park pro Ockie Strydom produced a pair of eagles on the back nine at Centurion Country Club to chase down an IGT Tour hat-trick in the Centurion Championship on Thursday.
Strydom fired a superb six-under-par 66 to overhaul overnight leader Danie van Tonder and claim a two-stroke victory over his Sunshine Tour peer on 13-under-par 275.
With the win, the GFG Academy player matched Van Tonder with a 10th career victory and became the third player to visit the winner’s enclosure three times this season after Anton Haig and Pretoria amateur Estiaan Conradie, although he is the first to make it three in a row.
Van Tonder closed with a 70 and finished two strokes ahead of 2016 Zwartkop Match Play champion Damian Naicker, who took sole third on nine under with a 67.
Former IGT tour champions Jacques Kruyswijk and Juan Swart rounded out the top five at six under after posted respective rounds of 68 and 72.
Strydom began the final round two shots off the pace and slipped three back after he bogeyed the opening 10th hole for a third time this week.
‘There is a spot left of the green at 10 reserved just for me,’ he laughed. ‘Don’t ask me why I keep missing the approach to the green; it’s a mystery that I might solve when we come here again.’
He reversed the unfortunate start with back-to-back birdies at 11 and 12, and was back within two shots after Van Tonder followed successive birdies at 11 and 12 with a drop at 14.
Strydom caught up to the leader with another brace of birdies at 15 and 16 and took the outright lead at the turn after Van Tonder dropped the par four 18th.
‘When we walked to the first hole, my caddie – Armando Botes – told me we had to go big to put pressure on the pack,’ Strydom said. ‘So I striped driver down the middle, hit a nine-iron into the green and boxed the eagle putt to move three shots clear.
‘I have to admit I had a little help from the golfing gods with my eagles. The approach at the first pitched right next to the flag, hit the pin and spun to six feet. I three-putted the third hole after I left the first putt short and misread the second, but I got another eagle at five.
‘My tee shot landed just right of the fairway. I hit a knock-down sand-wedge into the wind from 177 metres and the ball pitched just past the pin and spun back into the hole.’
Strydom hit sand-wedge from 88 metres to six foot at the sixth and holed the birdie putt to pull four shots clear of Van Tonder, who followed a birdie at the second with a string of pars.
‘When we got to 18, I had four shots in hand and I needed them, because I hit driver straight over the top right into the middle of the dam,” said Strydom.
‘At the drop zone, I told Armando that I was aiming for the middle of the green. Take the two-putt bogey and walk. Danie made a great birdie to close the gap to two shots, so those eagles really did the trick.
‘We have such a long break until our next Sunshine Tour event at the end of July, so it’s really great to have the IGT Tour to stay competitive. I’ve got some really nice form now and I want to keep it going, because I’m still trying to close the door on a first win on the Sunshine Tour. That’s why I am definitely going to gun for four-in-a-row at the Waterkloof Challenge next week.’
By Lali Stander
All competitors RSA unless otherwise specified and amateurs are indicated as AMA:
275 – Ockert Strydom 74 65 70 66
277 – Danie Van Tonder 68 71 68 70
279 – Damian Naicker 75 68 69 67
282 – Jacques Kruyswijk 72 73 69 68, Juan Swart 68 71 71 72
286 – Gary Daoust AMA (BEL) 75 72 72 67, Shaun Bernstein AMA 70 74 71 71, JC Ritchie 71 69 69 77