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Golf | SA

Lloyd Saltman © Gallo Images

Make-or-break for Lloyd at Serengeti

One of the lesser-hailed golfers in the hunt this week for the South African Open Championship at Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate is Lloyd Saltman.

p> Although the Edinburgh-born golfer has been to the Republic on numerous occasions before, and achieved a top-10 at last year’s SA Open, most locals will not be too familiar with the name.

Saltman turned pro in 2007, and spent the following three years playing on the European Challenge Tour. He got his breakthough in 2010 when he earned his European Tour playing card by graduating from the final stage of European Tour Qualifying School.

However, it has been a struggle for the Scot in his first two years on the Tour. He could only manage a 133rd place finish in the final Race to Dubai standings in 2011, and restricted membership this season has provided him with limited opportunities.

Saltman currently sits 196th in the Race to Dubai standings, and this week’s SA Open is thus a make-or-break event for him. A win is his only likely ticket to a place in the top 115 in the Order of Merit - which would secure him a full playing card for next year - but Saltman believes it is a distinct possibility.

“It’s a sort-of last-chance-saloon for me, last event of the year. I was category 12, so I only got seven or eight starts on the tour this year, so why not. The goal is to win, so I’m looking forward to having some fun over the weekend,” he said.

Saltman has certainly given himself a realistic chance, as he followed an opening round of 70 with a fine score of 66 on day two to leave him eight-under par at the halfway mark. Henrik Stenson looks to be the man to beat after finishing the day on 13-under, but Saltman feels comfortable around the Ekurhuleni course and is enjoying his time in the South Africa.

“It’s pretty cold back in Scotland just now and it’s nice to get away to a good condition golf course and a bit of sunshine. I can’t ask for more – I’m playing good and I’m very happy. I love this place. I played pretty well here last year and finished ninth. So it’s nice to be back and to be playing some good golf again,” he said.

Arguably Saltman’s greatest strength of all is his length off the tee and he is ranked 10th on the European Tour for driving distance. Like Stenson, the Scot believes this has given him a significant advantage at Serengeti.

”I would say I’m one of the longer ones off the tee, and this definitely falls into my hands this week. Definitely down here in Joburg as well, where the ball flies for me. I hit it high and long, so I can take some aggressive lines on par fives and really capitalise on them, which I’ve been doing. That’s kind of where the scores are coming from as well,” Saltman said.

Stenson looks in ominous form, and it would be a truly remarkable achievement if Saltman were able to topple the Swede - and the rest of the field. But with everything to play for and his game looking sharp, few would bet against him being in the reckoning this weekend.


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