Johannesburg - He’s only won two events in the long-running Vodacom Origins of Golf series, but Jaco van Zyl’s presence will loom large over the opening event in the 2011 series which gets underway at Pretoria Country Club on Thursday.
He won the 2008 Vodacom Origins Tour Final at Arabella, and he took the 2010 event at Sishen as one of his four Sunshine Tour victories last year.
He’s had a couple of close shaves, most notably in the 2009 final played at Simola, where he narrowly lost to Brandon Pieters as he closed with a 67 to the champion’s 69.
As the series returns to its 2009 Pretoria venue, Van Zyl will be up against Pieters again, as well as the form players from the preceding tournaments – the winners in May have been Justin Walters in the Investec Royal Swazi Open and Adilson Da Silva in the Nashua Golf Challenge.
Pieters had his maiden professional win at Pretoria Country Club in the 2009 Vodacom Origins event there, and he won two more titles in that year’s series for good measure, including that victory over the charging Van Zyl in the final.
Van Zyl has not played in South Africa recently as he has been campaigning in Europe after earning his European Tour card last year.
It hasn’t been a scintillating start on the European Tour for Van Zyl, but a second place in the Trophee Hasan II in Morocco to add to his fourth-place finish in the Africa Open has helped him to 52nd in the Race to Dubai rankings.
Since the Moroccan performance, he has a missed cut, a 56th place and a 55th place to his credit.
But there is no doubt he revels in local conditions, as his seven Sunshine Tour victories in the last two years show, and local players know he is tough to beat when he gets his nose in front.
He’s in 10th place on the 2011 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit after his fourth-place finish last year, and has over R110 000 to make up before he draws level with ninth-placed Neil Schietekat.
The R540 000 Vodacom Origins of Golf event at Pretoria Country Club offers him the chance of taking his first step in that direction as the 72-man professional field tees off with 60 amateurs for the first two rounds ahead of the cut to 40 professionals and ties for Saturday’s final round.