Back in 2012, Charl Schwartzel carried a 10 shot lead into the final round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship, but it was countryman Keith Horne dominated the headlines around the world. Since the average hacker has a 12,000 in one chance of making a hole-in-one, it was little wonder that Horne stole the show at Leopard Creek after acing the par-three 12th in successive rounds. Although he missed out on the BMW Gran Coupe on offer in the final round, he did celebrate Christmas early when BMW recognised his astonishing feat and presented him with the keys to a BMW 5 Series.
Horne thoroughly enjoyed driving the spoils but although there is a BMW X6 up for grabs this year in any of the four rounds, the KwaZulu-Natal-born golfer is hunting a podium finish in one of the European Tour co-sanctioned events and hopes to ride his way into the winner’s circle this year. “You know, I missed the cut at the BMG Classic, but I won the Vodacom Origins final a week later. It follows that I must stand a pretty good chance to win the Alfred Dunhill after missing cut at the Lion of Africa Cape Town Open. What better place to win than at my favourite golf course and just before Christmas. Or maybe I just pull off a hat-trick of aces and Johann Rupert names the hole after me,” the 43-year-old quipped. Horne has a solid record in the €1.5-million event with two top 10s and a top five finish since 2006 and is quietly confident ahead of Thursday’s start.
“This week has always been my favourite stop on the Tour. I think, apart from a tie for second at the 2010 Joburg Open, my best results in the European Tour co-sanctioned events were here,” said Horne. At the tail end of a profitable season, Horne is certainly entitled to some confidence. He pushed his winning tally on the Sunshine Tour to seven with victories on the Vodacom Origins series in May and July and, despite taking four months off, managed to stockpile a clutch of top 10 and top five finishes to climb to ninth on the current Sunshine Tour’s money list.
“I started the season well enough with a tie for ninth at the Africa Open and joint second in the Dimension Data Pro-Am, and the tie for third in the Investec Cup was pretty good, given the competition,” said the Eye of Africa player. He also picked up a top 10 finish in the Investec Royal Swazi Open and a top five at Sun City Challenge. “I just felt ready to take some time off, and when I came back, I felt really fresh and hungry to play again. It definitely showed in my results. I won at St Francis Links with three shots and the Vodacom Origins Final by one stroke with the coldest putter alive. Funny, though, I’ve always been a streaky putter and the last win at Pezula was all down to excellent ball striking, I hit it close all day and I never put myself under pressure. That always makes things easier,” he said. Horne was disappointed to miss the cut at Royal Cape. “I felt that I played much better than my scores reflected, but you know, it’s a funny course. When you hit a 68 there, you feel like you shot 64. I just never got my rhythm going properly,” he said.
Horne already put Leopard Creek through its paces, and the course has come up trumps. “I’m sure we are going to see some low scores this year. The course looks a lot greener and the fairways are holding nicely. The greens don’t seem to be as scarily fast as past years, but they will probably speed them up. I just had a really good time out there in the practice and I’m ready to get the show on the road,” he said. He will hit the fairways early in the first round in the company of John Hahn from the United States and Ireland’s Damien McGrane.
Horne’s stable mate at Lumenrock Sport Management International, Hennie Otto, will be looking to replicate his success at Leopard Creek in the 2003 Tour Championship and to exact revenge for his Lion of Africa Cape Town Open play-off loss. The reigning Italian Open champion will line up in the afternoon with long-time Sunshine Tour rival Darren Fichardt and Andy Sullivan from England.
Photo: Keith Horne
Photo credit: Carl Fourie/Sunshine Tour/Gallo Images.