Jaco Van Zyl kept his first class seat in the $7-million Turkish Airlines Open, but will have 2013 champion Victor Dubuisson from France for company in Sunday’s final round in Belek. The 36-year-old Dainfern golfer strung a frustrating two-under-par 70 at The Montgomerie Maxx Royal, while Dubuisson fired a 67 to grab a share of the lead at 16 under 200. It was touch and go for the South African, who had to hole a clutch putt for par at final hole to hold on to the joint lead.
Van Zyl hit a great tee shot and his approach landed in the greenside rough. He caught the chip too thin and watched it race past the hole and down to the second tier. Van Zyl says: ‘I messed it up a little with the chip, but it was a tough one to judge. I watched the line closely and knew I would make par, but the birdie was there for the taking.’ Meanwhile former world number one Rory McIlroy from Northern Ireland carded a third successive 67 to finish at 15 under with Kiradech Aphibarnrat from Thailand.
Aphibarnrat had the sole lead playing 18, but his approach disappeared in the hazard behind the green. The three-time European Tour winner had to take a drop and made 66 after the bogey at 18. Van Zyl fired a blistering 11-under-par 61 to take the lead in the first round and remains on course for a wire-to-wire maiden European Tour victory, but the South African hopes to have more luck with the putter on Sunday.
He says: ‘I did what I had to do to protect my lead on the front nine, but I let a few slip on the back nine and it was all a little sloppy. The pins were in tough spots and I struggled to read the lines. I had lot of five or six footers where I couldn’t commit left or right. I made a lot of good saves, too, but let some chances slip.’ Van Zyl broke his par run with a birdie at the par-five fourth, and sunk a five-footer for his second birdie at 15. His par-putt horse-shoed at 16 and he knew he had to counter the bogey to stay in front.
Van Zyl says: ‘I holed a great six-foot putt at 17 for birdie, but like I said, I messed up 18. Still, I’m still in with a shot and there is 18 chances on Sunday.’ Dubuisson reversed a bogey start with a birdie at the second and picked up another pair of birdies at four and six. He reeled in a hat-trick of gains from the 14th after another drop at 10 and closed with his seventh birdie. Aphibarnrat had a seven-birdie slug-fest and kept his card tidy until the ultimate hole, while McIlroy mixed five birdies and an eagle at the par-five 13th with two bogeys.
Buyong Hun An from Korea fired a superb seven under 65, so Van Zyl could feel he was treading water by comparison. He says: ‘I’m really happy about my performance this year and this week. When I came back in January after the double knee surgery and nearly a year out of the game, I was on a medical exemption. I just wanted to play well enough to keep my card, so I have totally exceeded my own expectations for the season. The third place finish at the French Open catapulted me into the Final Series, so this is all a bonus. I guess that’s why I don’t feel any pressure. It’s just great to be in this position and I’m having a lot of fun out here. Tonight, we’ll have some dinner, catch a couple of episodes of Bones and have a good night. There’s no point lying awake, worrying about things you can’t control.’
Fellow South Africans Charl Schwartzel, Trevor Fisher Jnr and Thomas Aiken all caught a seat on the bus at two under after respective rounds of 72, 72 and 74.
Photo credit: Turkish Airlines.