Naidoo under pressure at prestigious Players

2015PC_MelletteHendrikse_3_ GNGUSUN CITY, 7 February 2015 – Basil Naidoo hung on to his overnight lead at the Gary Player Country Club, but the KwaZulu-Natal player expects to come under major pressure in the final round of the Players Championship at Sun City on Sunday.

A three-over-par 75 kept the 57-year-old Greater Durban golfer in pole position at five-over-par 149 and he will carry a slender one shot lead over South African number one, Mellette Hendrikse from Gauteng North, into the final 18 holes.

However, as if having the reigning Indwe Risk Services SA Senior Amateur Stroke Play champion breathing down your neck is not pressure enough, Naidoo also has three-time Stroke Play champion Jock Wellington and fellow KZN golfer Morgan Phillips in his rear view mirror.

Hendrikse had three bogeys, but birdied the par-four 11th for a 74 to finish on 150. Phillips went the same route for his 74, while Wellington claimed a share of third on 151 with a 75 that included three drops, a double bogey and two birdies on the back nine.

Naidoo predicts that the final round to come down to a battle of wills.

“We all know each other’s games really well, so we know what to expect,” he said.

“Mellette is always dangerous, but Morgan and Jock thrive in a final round challenge. All four of us really want to own this title, so it will be an epic battle from the first to the 18th.”

The pacesetter bogeyed the sixth and eight holes and grinded out seven pars before he boxed a five-footer for birdie at the par-four 17th.

“I hit it in the bush on the left at the fifth and finished with a good bogey,” said Naidoo.

“I switched from a belly to a conventional putter three months ago and some days are better than others. I feel more confident with the short stick all the time, especially after the Free State Senior Open win but there is still some ways to go.”

“I actually felt okay about the drop at the eighth after I put it in the greenside bunker, because that’s the stroke one and it’s a tough hole. The frustration really set in on the back nine. I had to grind out a lot of pars. I thought to myself that if I made birdie at 17, I’d be only one over and I hit a really superb drive to 135 meters from the pin and a nine-iron nice and close.

“I made the putt, but after I drove it in the bunker at the 18th, I knew I was in trouble. I got the ball out of the trap okay to about 50 meters, but I made a bad chip from there. Luckily the second chip was decent and I cleaned up with a two-footer for bogey.”

Hendrikse, who dominated the senior circuit in 2014 with six victories, bogeyed the fifth and seventh holes, but turned the tide with a birdie at the par-four 11th.

“I hit three-wood, wedge to about 15 foot and made the putt, and that was just about the first positive putt I made in two rounds,” said the 54-year-old Akasia player.

Although he was thrilled to sink a long one, the frustration returned after a two-putt bogey at the 18th.

“I read the putts beautifully and the greens run very true, but I just couldn’t get the pace right and I left at least five short putts in the throat. I guess I expected the greens to run faster in the second round, but that didn’t happen and I struggled with the pace all day.

“Hopefully I can get whole package sorted in the final round.”

149 Basil Naidoo 74 75
150Mellette Hendrikse 76 74
151 Jock Wellington 76 75; Morgan Phillips 77 74
155 Lynton Beckett 76 79; Mark O’Brien 75 80; Derik Piek 80 75; Gavin van Aswegen 76 79
156 Schalk Naude 80 76
157 Dave Jessup 82 75
158 William Skinner 80 78; George Bezuidenhout 84 74
159 Gordon Wessels 81 78; Tony Bailey 79 80; Ramon Rahme 81 78; Adrian Kriel 81 78
160 Mel Labuschagne 82 78; Colin Mavuso 80 80
161 David Konzani 83 78; Kevin Curren 81 80
163 Robin Ashby 77 86; Peter van Coller 83 80; Mark Terrey 80 83; Chris Delport 81 82
164 Brian Mampies 85 79; Alex Pillay 86 78; Jannie Schutte 83 81; Johan Marais 80 84
165 Fanus van Niekerk 78 87; Conrad Rauch 82 83; James du Preez 85 80; Steve Smit 82 83; Christo Reyneke 85 80; Roy van Blerk 81 84
166 John Durie 82 84; Tim Hewan 83 83; Francois le Roux 85 81; Gerhard Strydom 82 84
167 Anton Bezuidenhout 88 79; Leon Scheepers 86 81; Stephen Cullen (DNK) 87 80; Alan Fraser 82 85; Denis Jones 83 84
168 Gavin Light 90 78; Christie le Roux 86 82; Brian Dougherty 88 80
169 Alex Anderson 83 86
170 Ben Kleynhans 90 80
171 Rodney Smith 90 81
172 Anton Nel 86 86
173 Dirk Swanevelder (DNK) 86 87

PHOTO – Gauteng North’s Mellette Hendrikse is one of the pace through two rounds of the prestigious 2015 Players’ Championship; credit Bernard Stander.