If you had seen the expressions of the players in the leadergroup as they walked off the final green in the Turkish Airlines Open, you’d have thought Jaco van Zyl was the winner.
Champion Victor Dubuisson was wrought with emotions and crying all the way from the green to the scoring tent, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat was in a state of shock after missing out on a two-feet birdie putt on the 18th.
But van Zyl walked off with a contended smile, even though he had the most to complain about. After all, the South African held the lead, or a share of it, for 71 holes before losing to Dubuisson on the 72nd.
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After finishing second on 21-under par 267, one behind Dubuisson and a gap that he could have bridged by making the 15-footer birdie putt on the final hole, the 36-year-old van Zyl said: “The only thing I’m sorry about is that I didn’t make the birdie putt to force a play-off.
“It was a great battle between the three of us out there. I thought it was between Kiradech and I when we were going low over the front nine, but then Victor played some amazing golf on the back nine and when you do that, you deserve to win the tournament.”
Van Zyl started the tournament with a blistering 11-under par round of 61, before adding a 69 on day two and a 70 on Saturday. He closed with a 67, but that wasn’t enough to get the 13-time champion on the South African Sunshine Tour a maiden win on the European Tour.
But van Zyl, who started the season on a medical extension after undergoing surgery on both his knees last year that kept him out of the golf course for almost the who season, improved to 16thin the Race to Dubai rankings from 51st, and to 75th in the world ranking from 132nd.
“When I stood on the first tee at the South African Open in January, I didn’t even know if I could play 18 holes, let alone make the cut,” he said describing is amazing season.
“I came to Europe on a medical exemption. I just wanted to do well enough to keep my card, but I’ve gone way beyond any expectations I had for the season, so you can’t blame me for smiling.
“Hopefully I’ve done enough this year to crack the nod for the Nedbank Golf Challenge, because that would really put the seal on my best season ever.”
Branden Grace remains 22nd & Charl Schwartzel dropped to 52nd while Jaco van Zyl sits at 75th & George Coetzee 77th #SSGolf
— SuperSport Blitz (@SuperSportBlitz) November 2, 2015
And van Zyl was eagerly looking forward to a trip to Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship. This will be the second time he would be playing the season-ending championship, having finished tied 22nd in his first visit in 2012.
“I love Dubai. I love going there. The weather and the friends I have there make it feel like a home away from home for me,” van Zyl told Sport360.
“I enjoyed the Earth course the first time I played there. It was a tough challenge and it felt very long. But I have now added a few yards to my game, so I am really looking forward to taking on the golf course.”
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