Kempton Park - The second instalment of the Sun Carnival City Challenge gets underway on Wednesday at Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate, and despite it being played at a different venue this year, defending champion Ruan de Smidt is relishing the opportunity to defend the title he won with some authority at Ebotse Links.
De Smidt stormed into the lead from the first round last year when he shot a 66. He followed that up with a four-under 68 second round before a final round one-under-par sealed the win for him on a total of 11-under-par 205. Not for the first time in his career, De Smidt enters this week a defending champion and in a strong field as this week’s, he will want a start similar to that of last year when he won this event.
“It was the first of two titles in three weeks,” remembered De Smidt, “and getting those two wins after a two-year lean patch with just one win at the Lost City in 2015 made me feel like I belong again.”
He missed the cut last week at Sun City, came 25th at Mopani Redpath Zambia and at the Vodacom Origins of Golf Highlands Gate a fortnight ago. The only top-10 finish he has this season came at the Investec Royal Swazi Open in May.
“I’m struggling a bit with the driving,” he said. “I think if I sort that out then I should be good again. I’ve been struggling from the beginning of the year with the putter, but it felt a lot better over the last little while.”
He had those two wins last year and finished in the top-10 eight times, so he will know that he needs to pick up speed as early as possible in the season if he wants a better position on the Order of Merit. He currently occupies 27th spot after seven starts, and with his experience, an improvement in that position is highly probable.
A four-time winner on the Sunshine Tour, De Smidt is no stranger to pressure and has demonstrated that he is as lethal as they come when he is on song. Whether he can defend the title he won on another course remains to be seen.