Sunshine Tour

Big stakes for Van Rooyen at Tshwane Open

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Erik van Rooyen (Getty Images)
Erik van Rooyen (Getty Images)

Pretoria - Erik van Rooyen can seal the 2017/18 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit with a solid showing at the Tshwane Open, which tees off at Pretoria Country Club on Thursday.

He has to finish alone in ninth place or better to make sure he doesn't get caught from behind in the R15 million tournament, co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and the European Tour.

However, the reality is there is only a handful of players with recent form who seem to be close enough to him to stop him from winning.

"I am excited for this tournament," said Van Rooyen, who owes his strong position to his second-place finish to India's Shubhankar Sharma in December’s Joburg Open. "It's the last big one of our Sunshine Tour season and I honestly believe the Order of Merit is going to come down to this one. I’m in a really good spot and I have everything to look forward to."

The man in second place currently is JC Ritchie, who came third in the SA Open and won the Zimbabwe Open.

The best scenario for Ritchie to win is if he finishes 10th or better in the Tshwane Open and Van Rooyen misses the cut.

"The Sunshine Tour Order of Merit hasn't been a big priority for me up until about SA Open," said Ritchie. "I'm going to try and keep it that way and focus on Tshwane. I'm going to focus on the next 72 holes, and if I play them like I want to, then the Order of Merit won’t be a problem."

Currently in third place on the Order of Merit is Oliver Bekker.

His likeliest path to victory is that he would have to finish third or better, have Van Rooyen miss the cut, and Ritchie finish eighth or worse - as well as have a lot of the players below third at the moment have poor finishes at Pretoria Country Club.

Below Bekker, players like Shaun Norris, Ockie Strydom and Louis de Jager all have mathematical chances of chasing down Van Rooyen.

They all would have to finish third or better in the Tshwane Open, and hope that other players above and below them either miss the cut, or have a very poor tournament this week.

While there is still the R1.5 million Tour Championship which can change things on the Order of Merit, the Tshwane Open with its huge prize-fund is the one the players are targeting.

"Obviously, I know who's on the list and who is doing really well," said Van Rooyen.

"JC Ritchie is in some really good form, along with Oliver Bekker, who has had a great season. I can't control how they play. I can only focus on my game and that’s what I’m going to do."

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