The year of Jaco
You’d be hard-pressed to find fault with Jaco van Zyl’s season in 2012, and in the final round of the Nelson Mandela Championship he underlined his tremendous talent with a “record-breaking” round of 57.
Of course, he hasn’t quite made official history on the European or Sunshine Tours as the players were allowed to place on the fairways and the waterlogged course had been reduced to a par-65, but it was nonetheless a remarkable effort after a trying week for the players.
“I think if it went to more rounds that wouldn’t have stood too long, because the guys are getting the hang of the course now,” van Zyl said. “It was a hard week. We only really started playing on Saturday, so it didn’t really feel like a tournament week. Eventually on the first tee box I decided that this was it, time to get to work.”
When asked about the significance of the feat, the 33 year-old was somewhat unenthused, but was pleased with his golf to post the score in any event.
“It didn’t mean much this week but it would be nice to do it next week! This week was very different to any other – there were eight par threes and it was playing as a par-65. To get it to eight-under-par, playing that amount of par threes and with only one par five, you’ve got to hit quality shots and make a couple of putts,” van Zyl said.
He showed similar form in the final round of the Cape Town Open a fortnight ago, where a final round of 66 earned him a place in a four-man playoff, although he lost out there to Jake Roos. However, it looked as though it might be a sign of things to come and this week’s efforts will have no doubt reinforced that idea.
“I started playing nicely the last couple of weeks. I played nicely in Cape Town and had a nice round this week, so I’m looking forward to next week,” he said.
After winning the Telkom PGA in 2009, van Zyl announced himself as a major force in South African golf, and a win at the Royal Swazi Sun Open a few months later more than backed this up. He joined the European Tour on a full-time basis in 2011, and enjoyed a fantastic season as he finished 50th in the Race to Dubai.
This year a tied-33rd place finish at the SA Open narrowly cost the man from Lonehill a place in the DP World Tour Championship final in Dubai, but a 64th-place finish in the Race represented a job well done as he amassed over €420,000.
But while things have been ticking along nicely for van Zyl as he’s established himself as a European Tour player, he’ll no doubt feel there’s plenty more out there for him to achieve and that the true potential of his abilities are yet to be realised.
Three top-10 finishes in co-sanctioned events this year would seem to leave little room for complaint, but the last time van Zyl recorded a victory on either tour was at the Nashua Masters Challenge in May 2010. A victory drought like this will irk a player of his calibre, and a win on European shores must surely be top of his wish list
The first step would be to put himself in contention, as his last five top-10 finishes have been largely thanks to his final rounds of 66, 68, 66, 66 and 69 in each respective event, and he never at any stage found himself with a legitimate chance of victory. Although this tournament took on a most unusual complexion, his final round of 57 looks likely to earn him another top-10 finish and represents a continuation of a trend that might annoy van Zyl.
But a good pedigree in final rounds is a very useful trait to have, and the day will come when the six-time Sunshine Tour winner finds himself in the hunt going down the stretch. He will be hungrier than ever to rack up any victory he can, but a win abroad would be all the more sweeter. If he can continue his upward turn of form, there’s every reason to believe it could happen this year.