Ryan van Velzen picked up exactly where he ended 2023 by playing the same high quality golf as he signed for a 64 in a weather-interrupted third round to lead the Mediclinic Invitational by a single stroke at Maccauvlei Golf Club on Saturday.
Despite a major thunderstorm that delayed play, Van Velzen showed the composure of a young star who knows he belongs at the highest level of the game as he climbed into the lead on 17 under par.
Behind him on 16 under lies the experience of Neil Schietekat, who posted a 66, while the equally experienced Oliver Bekker will start Sunday’s final round just two shots back following a 66 of his own.
Further down the leaderboard, Yurav Premlall is pushing for his maiden victory on the Sunshine Tour at 14 under par after posting a third round of 66, while Dylan Naidoo is also well placed on 13 under par, and also with a round of 66.
But Van Velzen’s incredible 2023 has given him a quiet confidence for the challenge that lies ahead on Sunday. The former GolfRSA elite amateur won twice on the Sunshine Tour last year and came tantalisingly close to a maiden DP World Tour title in the co-sanctioned Investec South African Open where he finished second.
“I took a month off over the festive season just to reflect on how good last year was for me. I put the clubs away and had a good holiday,” said Van Velzen. “I actually feel like I’m playing better than I was last year.”
The experience he gained from last year showed itself as early as the par-five 2nd hole when Van Velzen hit his second shot into the water and then hit a poor wedge shot to the back fringe of the green before making the putt to save par. Then he chipped in on the par-four 3rd hole for an eagle.
“I think that woke me up a bit because I could’ve easily started my round with a par then a double-bogey but instead I was two under through my first three holes.”
Van Velzen will have a world of experience around him on Sunday as he tees off in the final group alongside Bekker and Schietekat.
“It should be nice. I think I’ll be quite calm out there in the final round.”
Photo: Carl Fourie/Sunshine Tour