Luca Filippi has returned from his northern hemisphere visit energised and boosted in confidence, and he showed the strides he has made as a Sunshine Tour golfer on Thursday as he opened a handy gap for himself at the top of the leaderboard after the second round of the Blue Label Challenge at Sun City.
Filippi will go into the weekend four clear on 30 points under the modified scoring system used for this four-round event, following a bogey-free, eight-birdie haul of 16 points in the second round.
It was a wonderful performance by the Milnerton Golf Club representative on the tougher Gary Player Country Club layout, following up his excellent 14-point display in the first round, playing the Lost City course blind.
The 24-year-old Filippi played in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last weekend, registering impressive rounds of 70 and 73 before torrential rain washed out the weekend and he had to withdraw from the final round because he had a flight booked back to South Africa.
His performance confirmed how much he has improved over the past couple of years, which was further borne out by his stellar display, effectively shooting 64, on the famous Gary Player Country Club course.
“It was fantastic to play in the Alfred Dunhill Links, it was a great experience and I met some great celebrities,” said Filippi. “I had a flight booked for Monday at 6pm and, with the start delayed until 11am, I would have missed my flight so I had to unfortunately withdraw.
“I still only arrived at Sun City on Tuesday afternoon and I had a bit of anxiety because I hadn’t seen Lost City, I had to play it blind, without much sleep and not being sure how it would play.
“But I shot one under at Carnoustie so I saw that my game is good enough for a higher level. I definitely feel that I am improving, I’ve finished 48th, then 21st on the Order of Merit and this season I’m 14th.
“Every year I get more mature, I understand better how things work out here and it’s not about changing my game. In those high-pressure situations, you just have to deal with it, go through it and learn from all the different experiences.
“I’ve picked up nice confidence in the past few months, with six top-10s in my last nine events, and I’ve found some form. My game has definitely improved and I’m really happy with the way it’s trending.”
Any time someone shoots a sub-par round on the Gary Player Country Club course that has persecuted some of the greatest golfers, it’s almost a given that they have hit their fairways and found their greens in regulation. So it was with Filippi.
“I love the Gary Player course, it suits my game very well. It rewards good play off the tee and good iron play, and I’ve been doing that very well. I was very happy with my first day’s work at Lost City, that set me up for today and I played nicely.
“My putter was hot and I hit some great shots today. But in this format, things can change so quickly because birdies are worth two points. Your lead is never enough and I know from finishing runner-up last year that a chaser can always get close.
“No one is ever out of it, so I will just try and get as many birdies as possible and take my chances, especially on the par-fives, where eagles are worth five points, which is massive. Hopefully this weekend the eagle putts drop and don’t lip-out like last year on the 18th.”
Ryan van Velzen had two eagles on Thursday in an outstanding haul of 20 points and he is the main chaser, sitting four behind Filippi on 26 points, while first-round leader Yurav Premlall is on 23.
Photo: Shaun Roy/Sunshine Tour