Justin Harding won his second Sunshine Tour title in two weeks when he pulled off a marathon six-hole playoff victory in the Lombard Insurance Classic at Royal Swazi Spa Country Club.
He made birdie two on the 18th after he and Jake Roos had done battle five previous times on that hole without being able to eke out a victory. That was after Roos had shot a nine-under-par 63 in regulation play to force the playoff with Harding, who carded a six-under 66.
‘I’m exhausted,’ said Harding after he had seen off the challenge of the man who won his first five Sunshine Tour titles in playoffs. ‘To be honest, all I was trying to do on that final hole was make birdie, like I do on all the par threes on this course. In fact, I’m happy to make par on them, but this time, it wasn’t enough.’
In the end, he hit a beautiful 6-iron to within two feet on that final playoff hole to set up his birdie chance, while Roos was left of the green and had to use a fairway wood to try and cosy the ball up to the hole.
In the event, Roos nearly holed that attempt. But he didn’t, and Harding made the putt to add the Lombard Insurance Classic title to the Investec Royal Swazi Open he won last week on the same course.
He lost to Roos in a playoff in 2012 after winning the title in 2011, and he lost last year to Oliver Bekker. ‘It’s good to get a playoff win under my belt,’ said Harding. ‘But, at the start of the day, I was just hoping I wouldn’t get into a playoff.’
He made bogey on his third hole, and, while all around him were going low, he spent most of his round trying to play catch-up. He eventually only joined Roos at the top of the leaderboard with a birdie on the 17th.
Behind Roos, Jaco Ahlers fired a 64 to finish third. Colin Nel also carded a 64 for fourth position, which he shared with Alex Haindl, who shot a 66.
The victory consolidated Harding’s position at the top of the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit and vindicated a more thoughtful approach to his golf. Two victories in two weeks is stark testimony to that.
196 Justin Harding 66 64 66, Jake Roos 67 66 63 (Harding won at sixth playoff hole)
198 Jaco Ahlers 68 66 64
199 Colin Nel 65 70 64, Alex Haindl 67 66 66
200 Madalitso Muthiya 69 68 63, Andre De Decker 66 68 66, Combrinck Smit 63 68 69
201 JJ Senekal 70 66 65, Jake Redman 68 67 66
202 Matias Calderon 70 68 64, Christiaan Basson 70 67 65
203 Andrew Curlewis 68 69 66, Steve Surry 70 67 66, Merrick Bremner 70 64 69
204 Peter Karmis 72 65 67, Tyrone Ryan 68 68 68, Lyle Rowe 66 69 69, Martin Rohwer 66 69 69, Ulrich van den Berg 65 69 70, Vaughn Groenewald 65 68 71
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