Kempton Park — While the Sunshine Tour's Tour Championship which tees off on Thursday at Serengeti Estates this week is shaping up to be something of a victory lap for Zander Lombard , there's more at stake than simply confirming his status as the 2018/19 Order of Merit winner.
He has a nearly R640 000 advantage over his nearest rival, Justin Harding, and with Harding opting to rest up ahead of the crucial World Golf Championship-Dell Technologies Match Play in Texas next week, Lombard certainly can't be caught by the man in third, Bryce Easton.
With the winner of the Tour Championship taking home R240 000 of the R1.5-million purse, Lombard will certainly be presented with the Sid Brews Trophy for winning the Order of Merit when the tournament ends.
"It will sink in on Sunday when I actually get the trophy," he said. "It's something I've been working towards for a long time and it's nice to get rewarded."
Of course, there is the small matter of the tournament that he'd like to win, too.
"You still want to win every time you tee it up," he said. "I'm definitely going to focus out there, but whatever happens, it's been an awesome season on the Sunshine Tour."
His own game is in pretty good shape, as well, as he finds himself in 41st spot on the European Tour's Race to Dubai rankings with a share of third at December's Alfred Dunhill Championship the highlight of his season record.
"I'm hitting the ball really well," he said. "I just need to put some finishing touches on my game, because the course is quite tricky out there. There are a lot of slopes on the greens, and there's a lot of rough, so I think tidying up will be tricky this week."
Despite those possible problems, Serengeti is a course he likes.
"I think it's an awesome course," he said. "It suits my game. It's very American-style. It's long and it's not narrow, but if you miss the fairways, you're going to struggle to make par. Hitting fairways will be key this week to help you get the ball onto the right tiers of the greens."
While a lot of the attention will be on Lombard, there are other players who will want the prestige of winning the Tour Championship.
Perhaps the most likely-looking winner in the 40-man field is JC Ritchie, fresh off his victory in the Limpopo Championship - and that followed a win the week before with Jaco Prinsloo in the Team Championship.
Besides Ritchie and Lombard - who won the Vodacom Origins of Golf event at Zebula in August last year - there are 10 other 2018/19 Sunshine Tour winners in the field, and 11 if you count Prinsloo. That's some serious firepower and whoever wins will have to produce a complete performance.