28 February 2013

South Africa: Otto Chases Tshwane Open Win

The Tshwane Open, co-sanctioned by the European and Sunshine Tours, tees off at the Copperleaf Golf & Country Estate outside Pretoria on Thursday. A strong field of local golfers will be aiming to continue a run of success by South African golfers in European Tour events in the country.

Since Scotland's Scott Jamieson won the Nelson Mandela Championship in Durban at the beginning of December, South African golfers have recorded four wins in succession. Charl Schwartzel lifted the title at the Alfred Dunhill Championship, Louis Oosthuizen claimed the Volvo Golf Champions, Richard Sterne won the Joburg Open and Darren Fichardt captured the Africa Open.

There is a lot more South African talent champing at the bit to claim victory in Pretoria, including 2011 SA Open winner Hennie Otto.

A two-time European Tour champion, Otto recently took some time off with his family. It was what he needed to get his competitive juices flowing again. Coming off a tie for third at the Dimension Data Pro-Am on Sunday, the feisty Boksburg professional is fired up to chase down a third European Tour title.

'A miserable start'

"I had a miserable start to my 2013 season with three missed cuts on the trot during the Desert Swing and after the top 20 at the Joburg Open, I pulled out of the Africa Open and took some time out with the family to regroup," Otto explained. "We went to our farm near Magersfontein and just chilled. By the time the Di-Data swung around, I felt ready to fire."

The 36-year-old Anahita Mauritius golfer dominated the leaderboard in his title defence and recovered superbly after a dismal front nine in the final round to finish three strokes off the pace from winner Jaco van Zyl.

"It was a great week, though, considering the break I took," Otto said. "It has really fired me up for this week and I want to get in there early and challenge."

Otto's mantle is loaded with silverware from 12 Sunshine Tour victories, the 2008 Italian Open and the prestigious South African Open Championship trophy, which he won with a standout performance at Serengeti in 2011. But he can definitely clear space for more.

'Really excited'

"After last week, I'm really excited to get going at Copperleaf," he said. "It's been a while since I've had a podium finish and right now I feel my game could support a strong challenge.

"I've never played the course before, so I'll have my first look at it during the pro-am, but I just love playing Ernie Els designed courses, because they suit my eye. Can't wait to get going."

With a two-year exemption on the cards, as well as a healthy whack of world golf rankings points, a victory will certainly boost Otto's current Sunshine Tour and European Tour rankings.

"By Sunday I hope to break into the top 100 in the Race to Dubai and get inside the top 10 of the Sunshine Tour's rankings. I also want inside the top five on the Investec Cup rankings before the championship, so there is a lot to play for this week."

Title contenders

Otto will also have to hold off his Lumenrock Sport Management International (LSMI) stable-mates competing in the final European and Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned event. They include reigning BMG Classic champion Teboho Sefatsa, Telkom PGA Championship defending champion Keith Horne and Sunshine Tour winner Andrew Curlewis are also chasing the lion share of the €1.5-million purse.

The LSMI stable will line up alongside other draw cards like recent Africa Open winner Darren Fichardt, Di-Data champion Van Zyl, Major champions José María Olazábal, Darren Clarke and Michael Campbell, as well as Sunshine Tour winner Trevor Fisher Jnr and European Tour champions, Thomas Aiken and Garth Mulroy.

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