Tjaart: Drive far and straight
Tjaart van der Walt (File)
Johannesburg - Tjaart van der Walt believes the Telkom PGA Championship will favour the long hitters when the tournament starts at Country Club Johannesburg on Thursday.
“You have to drive it far and straight,” Van der Walt said on the driving range on Wednesday.
“The rough doesn't seem to be as [long] as I've seen it before, which is a bit disappointing because it brings all the long-john-silvers - the long-hitters - into it, so I think it will be won on the greens.”
The field includes last week's Avantha Masters winner, Jbe' Kruger, as well as Oliver Bekker, who won on the Sunshine Tour last week, Jaco Van Zyl and Richard Sterne, who is making a strong return to competitive golf.
The weather will also be a key factor, with heavy rainfall in the area this week.
“The greens can be quick, but who knows what the weather will bring," Van der Walt said.
"If the weather comes in the ball will stop and the scoring will be lower.” Van der Walt, 37, comes off a tie for 14th at last week's Dimension Data Pro-Am, behind Bekker, and will hope for more of the same on the Highveld course.
“This course is probably a little bit too long for me to give any predictions, but it is a long course," he said.
"Who knows, maybe on the greens I can catch up on a couple of guys.”
Van der Walt started the season with a second-place finish at the Africa Open behind countryman Louis Oosthuizen.
“I started well this season with a second behind Louis," he said.
"The Joburg Open didn't go as planned, but to be honest, I needed some time off, and I have now had four weeks off."
Van der Walt said, while the competition offered by younger players was fierce, he was glad to be playing regularly after being hampered by injuries in recent years.
“I'm excited for Jbe [Kruger] and Branden [Grace], and Oliver [Bekker] last week as well," he said.
"We're all trying to do the same thing out here, and the ball doesn't know how old you are or who you are.
“In my opinion I think I'm very fortunate to be out here.
"A couple of years ago I didn't think I was going to play again, but a couple of injuries later and a bit more motivated and fitter, and I'm now looking forward to the challenge ahead.”
Van der Walt hoped to contend this week, but he said he would use the tournament to prepare for upcoming stints in Europe and Asia.
“I've got two weeks off after this week, and then I have three weeks in Europe and then three in Asia, so it will be a busy couple of months.
"I finished 14th on the order of merit in Asia [last year] and I only played one co-sanctioned event, so it will be exciting to play the big ones in Asia this year.
"We always try and play to win, but we have to be realistic as well.
"These two weeks I've committed to practise and preparing for Europe, and it's always a bonus to do well.
"I'm always competitive so let's hope the game is there.”