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Golf | SA

Hennie Otto © Gallo Images

Otto seizes course record



The course record changed hands for the third time this week in the South African Open Championship at the Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate as defending champion Hennie Otto shot a sensational 62 on Sunday.

The course record had been equalled earlier in the week by Merrick Bremner, who fired a fine 64 on Thursday. On Saturday George Coetzee toppled it with a 63 that included an eagle on the par-four fourth hole. But on Sunday, it was Otto’s turn to rip the Nicklaus-designed course to shreds, as eight birdies and an eagle in breezy conditions propelled him to a score of 62.

Otto started the day at two-over par for the tournament, so the remarkable round today only took him to eight-under, which leaves him out of the running to retain his title. But the local lad from Boksburg was simply happy to get his putting back on track today.

“I didn’t think about the course record. The putter was working, and that’s what I wanted. I made the fist-pump on 18 because my putting was back to standard.

“I hit the ball well the whole week, but if you average 33/34 putts you’re not going to make a score. Today that’s what showed,” he said.

Moments of ill-temperedness have become synonymous with the likeable Otto, and his clubs have occasionally paid the price for failing to deliver.

In the third round it was his putter’s turn to feel the wrath, as he flung it into the water at the 15th (his sixth hole of the day) after a series of missed opportunities. He was forced to putt with a wedge for the remainder of the round, and signed for a 75 as a result. But Otto believes it was a necessary part of a more long-term solution, and 27 putts today would seem to lend credence to his theory.

“I hit the ball very well this whole week. The first three rounds the putting let me down, but then I got rid of the putter yesterday. Tossed it in the water, just to make sure I didn’t use it again.

“I went back to my old putter and that was the difference. I started making the putts today and that’s where the turning point came,” he said.

Today’s efforts have ensured that Otto’s defence of the prestigious trophy has gone out with a bang rather than a whimper, and we were all given a reminder of why he so deservedly claimed the title last year. More importantly, the 36-year-old believes this will give him great confidence moving forward.

“I’m positive for the next few tournaments. It’s looking promising for a change, and that’s what I want,” he said.

Ironically, Otto’s outbursts are one of the many things that make him so endearing to golf fans. At times they are comical, and they seldom fail to entertain. But today he reminded us what a remarkably talented golfer he is, and why he is such a worthy champion of his national Open.

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