Tuesday, 25 July 2017
Erik van Rooyen  (Getty Images)
Erik van Rooyen (Getty Images)

Erik van Rooyen is targeting instant redemption at the Prague Golf Challenge after faltering down the stretch while in contention for a maiden European Challenge Tour title last week.

The South African was in second place as the SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels & Resorts entered its final nine holes but a triple bogey on the 11th hole, followed by a double bogey two holes later, put paid to his chances of overhauling winner Richard McEvoy.

A share of 13th place was scant reward for the quality golf van Rooyen produced in Aviemore but he is determined to draw on the positives this week as the Road to Oman returns to the Czech Republic and pays its first visit to Prague City Golf.

“It was an awesome experience just to be in contention,” said the 27 year old. “It was reassuring to know my game is there and that I’m playing well, and to feel the Sunday vibes on the back nine again is what it’s all about.

“I’ll take the positives from last week and try to just play great golf again this week. If I can get myself into position again on Sunday then anything can happen.

“I played really well on the front nine and, to be honest, I didn’t expect to still be three shots behind after shooting five under on that front nine but Richard just played extremely good golf.

“I ran into a few mistakes on the back nine – it wasn’t really bad swings, it was maybe just a decision off the tee on 11 where I chose to be a little bit more aggressive and it didn’t work out.

“The reason was that I knew Richard wasn’t going to drop back with how well he was playing so I was going to have to go get him and it didn’t work out, but I have to look at the bigger picture.

“I want to get a European Tour card at the end of the year, so maybe being a little more conservative next time and accepting that someone else is playing well but still just playing my own game, maybe that’s the best decision and a good lesson to have learned.

“Of course I was still thinking I could win the tournament – I was three back knowing I could capitalise on the par five 13th, I’d been playing 18 really well every day up until that point, so I knew I had a chance, it just didn’t work out that way.”

Having earned Challenge Tour status through last year’s Qualifying School, van Rooyen has been consistent in 2017, a best result of tied tenth in the Open de Portugal at Morgado Resort helping him to 38th place in the Rankings.

Still based in South Africa, he is in the middle of a long stint in Europe, playing six or seven events in succession before returning home for a break, but his game is showing the benefits of playing tournament golf so regularly.

“I feel like I’m now bringing a little momentum into this week,” he said. “The swing’s there, the mind’s there, I’m putting great, so I’m going to try to keep playing as well as I did last week.

“I tend to play better the more tournaments I play so I’m looking forward to this week. It’s a nice place to play golf – hopefully it will stay sunny all week because, after Scotland, we could all do with a bit of sunshine!

“It’s a wide open course with a little bit of length to it so I think it’s going to suit my game – the greens are very sloping so they’ll be able to tuck a few pins away and you are going to have to think a little bit.”

Joining van Rooyen in the Czech capital is Road to Oman Number One Julian Suri, whose remarkable 2017 continued when he came through Final Qualifying yesterday to earn a maiden Major appearance at The Open Championship in two weeks’ time.

Suri was victorious on the Challenge Tour’s last visit to the country, the D+D REAL Czech Challenge six weeks ago, but will be playing the course blind after sharing first place at Gailes Links to secure his place at Royal Birkdale, with travel delays preventing him from practising before Round One.

The American was one of eight active Challenge Tour players to prevail yesterday, with a further three of them – Robert Dinwiddie, Ryan McCarthy, Toby Tree – joining him in Prague for this week’s tournament.

The 12-strong home contingent will be led by Jan Cafourek, who was the leading Czech player on home soil at the D+D REAL Czech Challenge when he finished in a share of 38th place.

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