The European Tour reaches the climax of its South African swing when the City of Tshwane hosts the second Tshwane Open at The Els Club Copperleaf in Centurion from 27 February to 2 March. The €1.5-million (roughly R23-million) tournament, co-sanctioned by the European and Sunshine Tours, will once again feature a quality field of South African and European professionals competing in one of the most lucrative tournaments on the local circuit.
South Africa’s Dawie van der Walt will return to defend his title in what is the last of a run of seven co-sanctioned tournaments in South Africa over this summer. And the South African professionals will seek to maintain their hold on these events. Of the seven, only two were won by foreigners, namely Morton Ørum Madsen’s victory in the South African Open and Thomas Björn’s victory at the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
Van Der Walt also returns to the Tshwane Open a vastly different player to the one he was roughly seven months ago. At that stage he was still battling on the mini tours of America and seeking his first significant victory. Then came his breakthrough in the 2013 Tshwane Open. The rest of his year was marred by an ankle injury which affected his swing, but Van Der Walt returned to South Africa in December to claim his maiden start in the prestigious Nedbank Golf Challenge, where he finished 24th in the expanded 30-man field.
And thereafter he claimed an emotional victory in the Nelson Mandela Championship in Durban, which enabled him to overtake Darren Fichardt and win the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit in the final tournament of the year. Now a double European Tour champion, Van Der Walt will be full of confidence as he prepares to defend his Tshwane Open title. “Winning once is great, but to be able to win again justifies that I can do it. You feel like you belong,” he said.
“I was feeling so confident after I won the 2013 Tshwane Open, then I went to Europe and I struggled because my expectations were high but my game wasn’t quite there. Then I went back to America and I sprained my ankle. It put my golf swing in positions I didn’t like because I was compensating for it. But I had to keep pushing. What other choice do you have? This is my job. There was a lot of hard work, a lot of analysing your swing, and sleepless nights and trying to figure out where I went wrong. I was finishing last in tournaments. But I just didn’t give up.”