Dark horse Harding ready to spring an Open surprise

Justin Harding (Getty Images)
Justin Harding (Getty Images)

Cape Town - South Africa's Justin Harding will be looking to establish himself as another genuine contender when he makes his second appearance at the Open Championship at Royal Portrush this week.

Harding made his debut at the Open in 2013 after winning the African edition of International Final Qualifying (IFQ) but missed the cut in Muirfield then.

However, the world No 50 has since taken his game to new heights, with him notching back-to-back wins on the Asian Tour last year and emerging triumphant at the Qatar Masters on the European Tour earlier this year.

He was propelled further into the global spotlight after posting a commendable tied-12th result in his Masters tournament debut in April and could spring yet another surprise with a solid showing at Royal Portrush in a fortnight.

"I've been more consistent over the last 15 months and I'm becoming a little better mentally too. It's no longer really going through the highs and lows and emotional roller coaster, so to speak," said the 33-year-old.

"But that also comes with not really playing with the aggressive mindset game that I used to have in the past."

Harding made a spectacular entrance to the Asian Tour in July at the Indonesia Open last year.

He received an invitation to the tournament by virtue of his outstanding form on the Sunshine Tour, and he displayed that same blistering form en route to his maiden Asian Tour victory in Jakarta. The South African promptly took up membership with the Tour after his win.

Harding's breakthrough in Indonesia was the catalyst that saw him going on to clinch another win at the Royal Cup in Thailand a fortnight later, making him the first golfer in Tour history to win two times in as many starts.

After enjoying another four Top-10s, Harding would end the year in third place on the Asian Tour Order of Merit.

"I've been playing good golf and making fewer mistakes. That has been the key for me. I'm just about trying to keep yourself in the tournament for as long as possible," said Harding.

"It's a matter of doing what I've been doing and seeing what happens. Things will take care of themselves if I continue to post good results."

Harding will be joined by 10 other South Africans in the field at Royal Portrush.

loading... Live
England 34/1 (15.4 ov)
West Indies 0
Voting Booth
What is your favourite sport to watch on TV?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
46% - 3701 votes
11% - 881 votes
18% - 1422 votes
2% - 154 votes
1% - 67 votes
2% - 166 votes
5% - 403 votes
8% - 611 votes
3% - 248 votes
Water sports
1% - 64 votes
American sports
1% - 61 votes
3% - 211 votes