Antalya – South Africa’s Jaco van Zyl was in high spirits and brimming with confidence ahead of his debut in the Turkish Airlines Open, hoping to match Victor Du Buisson from France and American Brooks Koepka with a maiden European Tour win in the Final Series curtain-raiser at The Montgomerie Maxx Royal.
Looking resplendent in bright yellow that perfectly mimicked the sunny weather in southern Turkey, the 36-year-old Dainfern golfer believes this is the week to do it.
“There is very little rough at this course, there are five par fives to attack and a couple of par fours that will serve up birdies,” Van Zyl said.
“It doesn’t surprise me that the winning score the last two years has been around 20 under. It’s not a very long course and it’s a great risk and reward layout. The greens are also very receptive after all the rain they had at the weekend.
“I played nine holes on Monday and another nine with Graeme Storm today and I really like the feel of the course. There are a few challenging holes, like the par three fourth, but you can definitely play target golf here this week.”
Van Zyl missed the bulk of the 2014 season after double knee surgery in March and was admittedly shaky in his first appearance at the South African Open Championship in January.
“I had an army of butterflies on the first tee in the first round,” he said.
“I worked hard and did everything the doctors asked of me, but I still worried if my knees would hold up and if I could still compete.
“I tied for 55th – my worst ever performance in the SA Open – but I made the cut and finished 72 holes and it gave me a lot of confidence early on in the season.”
Van Zyl has earned in excess of R8-million on the European Tour this season, with his plumpest cheques coming from a runner-up finish in the Joburg Open, sixth in the Africa Open, third in the Trophy Hassan II and most recently, third in the Alstom Open de France.
“I definitely feel that I belong on this stage and I am hungry to win.
“I didn’t qualify for the first Turkish Airlines Open and I missed out last season because of the knee surgery, so I really want to make the most of my start this week,” he said.
“I chose to stay on in Portugal after the Portugal Masters so I could come here early and get acquainted with the course. I'm quite relaxed and I'm going to go out there and enjoy it.
“This is a world-class event and there is a lot to take in, but I hope to take advantage in all the right spots early on to give myself a chance at the weekend.”
Van Zyl will line up alongside compatriots Trevor Fisher Jnr and Thomas Aiken, also looking to match Du Buisson and Koepka’s breakthroughs in Turkey, as well as former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel.
The South African quartet will have to stave off challenges from the Rory McIlroy, Danny Willett and Shane Lowry, respectively ranked first, second and fourth in the Race to Dubai, looking to extend the British run of victories in the last three events.