Johannesburg – SA’s Wilco Nienaber will be hoping to go one better than his runner-up finish in the Joburg Open, when this year’s event starts at Randpark Golf Club on Thursday.
In fact, the 21-year-old does not look back on his top performance in his previous outing in the tournament fondly.
“Finishing second here, it sucked,” said Nienaber on Tuesday after a round on the parkland layout.
However, the young big-hitter learnt a lot from his 2020 season following his showing in Johannesburg.
“Finishing second was not ideal. I had a lot of phone calls saying that finishing second was the best thing that could have happened. If it didn’t come from the people it came from, I thought that would have been a dumb comment to make. I took that to heart, and the rest of the season I learnt a lot as well. That just basically started it off.”
Nienaber is the longest player on the European Tour after topping the driving distance charts in 2020 as he averaged a mammoth 340 yards of the tee for the season. Coming to a venue like Randpark where power-hitting is rewarded, is something that excites Nienaber.
“I can play to my advantage here - I can use driver on most holes unlike some golf courses where I’m limited.”
Clearly not satisfied with a top finish that is not a victory, Nienaber says he is trying to not rush his expectations.
“Just being patient and waiting until it’s my time. I don’t think there’s any way of putting it differently for myself that makes me feel better.
“It’s a new season, a new tournament, a new start. Today was a little rusty because I took two weeks off after a really long season. I just have to be patient and it [the win] will happen.”
The Joburg Open will also give a number of Sunshine Tour players the chance to play in well-funded events, and Nienaber said the local contingent would be relishing the challenge.
“It’s a great opportunity for us all to really do well and because it’s a big money event. If you do well here, it can be a springboard to playing on the European Tour. For us playing on the Sunshine Tour, it’s just a huge opportunity.”
Nienaber, though, will count himself as just one of many South African players who should be in contention this week. Brandon Stone, George Coetzee, Danie van Tonder and Dean Burmester will draw some of the biggest galleries with up to 2000 spectators expected each day.
African News Agency (ANA)