Currently sitting ninth on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai and enjoying a healthy spell on the greens, Jaco van Zyl hopes his putter will be on song when he defends his Eye of Africa PGA Championship title at the Eye of Africa Signature Golf Course on Thursday.
Having shot a confidence-boosting 68 in the pro-am on Tuesday, Van Zyl knows it’s the putts one makes which determine victors from the rest. ‘I have been playing really nicely, you know, hitting it unbelievably. Unfortunately, to win an event you need to make the putts at the right time. You know I managed to do it the last time so hopefully I can repeat it this year,’ he said.
While winning the Eye of Africa PGA Championship remains a dream for many golfers, the reigning champion will be looking to match a 47-year old record if he wins, and become only the second player ever to have won four PGA Championships. He lifted his third title in style last year when his experience proved too much for Dean Burmester, who lost on the first play-off hole after a not-so-convincing approach shot allowed Van Zyl to slot home a birdie putt for a dramatic end to a dramatic round.
Following a solid start to his European Tour season – where he finished in the top-20 at the BMW SA Open, tied for 23rd at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and came second at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters – a successful defence of this title will etch his name into the history books and the 38-year-old Van Zyl is relishing the prospect.
‘I’m still young so I have got youth on my side so hopefully I can go get a couple more,’ he said of the prospect of winning a record fourth title and going on to match Bobby Locke’s record of seven (although those seven were achieved during the match-play era of the tournament).
He added, ‘You know, I got my goals set for the next two weeks and if all goes according to plan, it (victory) will open quite a few doors for me for the rest of the season.’
Van Zyl will be looking to join Harold Henning as the only player to have won the tournament four times since it became a stroke play event in 1965. Back in 1970, Henning lifted his fourth PGA title to place himself in the record books for the most PGA titles won.
He remains the most successful of the stroke play champions, winning in 1965, 1966, 1967 and 1972.
Van Zyl, if he wins here, will eclipse such luminaries as Gary Player and Ernie Els among the greats who have won the title three times. But victory will also do wonders for his confidence when he returns to Europe, especially after that close one at the Qatar Masters.
Van Zyl acknowledges the success he has had in the tournament, but he is not getting carried away and instead has found more motivation. ‘This is an event at home and I really feel it is time to capitalise on that,’ he said.
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