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Golf | SA

Olly well poised for breakthrough week



South Africa’s Oliver Bekker is certainly no stranger to the big time. In 2012, he amassed six top-10 finishes and nearly R1 million in prize money on the Sunshine Tour, and victory at the Dimension Data Pro-Am rounded off a superb year. The win also gained him entry into last year’s WGC Bridgestone Invitational, and it was another string in the bow of a budding career.

But it looks as though it may yet get better in 2013. A win at the Telkom PGA Pro-Am last month shook off any holiday rust in emphatic fashion. He then soared to seven-under par through 36 holes at last week’s Joburg Open, before slipping on the weekend to finish in a tie for 65th.

At this week’s Africa Open Golf Challenge at East London Golf Club he is determined to make amends, and a three-under par round of 69 on the opening day in windy conditions has left him well inside the top 10 going into day two.

“If you told me this morning I’d shoot 69 I would have taken it!” the 28 year old smiled. “It’s tough out there. You’ve got to hit some good shots, control your ball flight, shape it and try to hold the wind on a lot of the holes. It was really tricky, and patience was the name of the game out there today.”

“Last week I had a little summer flu and struggled with my rhythm a lot. That could be why I struggled so much over the weekend. One day I’d hit it great and then the next I was hitting it 30 metres shorter, even though it felt like I was doing the same thing. This week I’ve had nice rhythm in all three of my practice rounds as well as today out there, so hopefully I can keep it going through the weekend,” he added.

The Africa Open had in previous years been scheduled in the week following the New Year, and thus has never failed to attract some of the top players in the game. A change of schedule this year has seen it clash with the WGC Accenture Matchplay in Arizona, and some of Bekker’s more-hailed colleagues are absent. However, the Stellenbosch resident is under no illusions about the task at hand if he is to claim a maiden European Tour victory.

“Unfortunately this week a lot of guys like Branden (Grace), Charl (Schwartzel), Louis (Oosthuizen) and George (Coetzee) can’t play because of the WGC Match Play event, but that opens the door for us to get our first European Tour win, if we play well. There are still a lot of good players out there to beat, so you have to be on top of your game,” he noted.

The notion that a player is “ready to win” is flawed. But Bekker has been a measure of consistency since turning pro in 2008, and a top-10 finish in the 2012 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit was indicative of the fact that he is fast becoming one of South Africa’s elite talents. Having already notched up three wins on his local tour, a win on the European Tour would surely represent the next step.

“Every week that you tee it up you try to win. You have to think you can win, otherwise you shouldn’t be out here,” Bekker said.

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