Bothma the head of a family affair in Kenya

4/2/2011 4:36:32 PM
Michiel Bothma (pic by Chris Omollo) ()
Michiel Bothma (pic by Chris Omollo) ()

Third round leader Michiel Bothma will hope that familiarity breeds contentment on the final day of the Barclays Kenya Open, when he will play alongside his cousin Branden Grace and room-mate André Bossert. 

South African Bothma opened up a two-shot lead over Johannesburg-born Bossert courtesy of a round of 69 which ended on a crowd-pleasing note with an eagle three on the 18th hole at Muthaiga Golf Club in Nairobi, Kenya. That moved Bothma to 11 under par, with Bossert – who captured the Barclays Kenya Open title 19 years ago – on nine under par courtesy of an eventful round of 70.

Grace and Tyrone Ferreira, close friends and compatriots, share fourth place on eight under par after both men posted best-of-the-day rounds of 66. Grace will have a distinct length advantage off the tee in the final grouping, but Bothma is hopeful his experience will give him the edge as both men go in search of a first Challenge Tour victory on a potentially enthralling final day of the €190,000 event.       

Bothma said: “It’s going to be a lot of fun out there tomorrow. André and I have roomed together a lot in the past, so we’re good friends because we’re of a similar age. We’re part of the furniture out here on the Challenge Tour! And Branden’s my cousin, so we’ve played a lot of golf together, and it’ll really feel like a family affair out there tomorrow.

“We’ve been paired up a few times on the Challenge Tour and the Sunshine Tour, but never in the last group before. Branden’s been playing very well this season and I’ve struggled a little bit, but now it seems I’ve closed the gap, so it’ll be nice to have him behind me for a change. Although I’ll be a long way behind him off the tee – sometimes it makes me sick how far he hits it!

“I seem to be hitting it shorter and shorter, and he seems to be hitting it longer and longer. If he connects with one tomorrow, I’ll be a good 50 yards behind him. But he’s 16 years younger than me, so that’s maybe to be expected. And length is only really an advantage on three or four holes on this course, and on two of those holes you need to cut the corner. So it could go either way. All I can just keep it in play, plot my way round the course and hope that experience prevails over youth.”

Forty eight year old Bossert will be hoping the same, as he goes in search of setting a new Challenge Tour record of years between winning the same event. By his own admission Bossert struggled on the front nine, reaching the turn in 37, but rallied with four birdies after the turn to move within sight of a fourth Challenge Tour title.

He said: “My putter was very cold on the front nine, then it got hot after the turn – although I still managed to make two three-putts, which was a little bit frustrating. But I’m over it now, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. It’s probably been a while since I played in the final group, so I’m excited about it – especially as I’m playing with my good friend Michiel. We had a good tussle today and I actually came out on top on the back nine, so hopefully that’s the case again tomorrow.”

Grace is the man in form, having finished 21st, eighth and 13th in the three events which form part of The European Tour’s ‘South African Swing’ at the start of the season. The 22 year old also captured his maiden professional title last year at the Coca-Cola Championship hosted by Gary Player on his native Sunshine Tour, and will lean on that experience – as well as a putting tip he took from watching the television – as he goes in search of a second victory on African soil.

He said: “The five birdies were great, but the no bogeys were just a pleasing. I made a small change on the greens after watching Aaron Baddeley putt on TV the other night. I’ve been a bit cautious on these greens, and my putts have lacked conviction because I haven’t trusted the lines. Then when I watched Aaron’s approach the other night, he seemed to have no doubts or hesitation in his mind at all, so I gave it a go myself today and it luckily it worked out really well for me. Hopefully the putts keep dropping tomorrow.

“It should be a great last day. Tyrone’s my best mate and Michiel’s my cousin, so we all get on really well and it should help us to relax. I must’ve played hundreds of practice rounds with those guys before, so although we’re obviously playing for a big prize, it will help me to relax. The win last year should also help me, because knowing I’ve won before will help me stay calm, focused and positive. My confidence is running really high at the moment, and hopefully that carries me through.”

Ferreira credited Grace with an improvement in his game after receiving some advice from his friend which helped turn an opening round of 73 to successive rounds of 66.            

He said: “I started off hitting the ball badly on the first day, but Branden gave me a tip and since then I haven’t looked back. I kept hitting a fade, but after what he said I’ve been hitting it much straighter, much longer and much more consistently. We’re good friends and we travel together a lot, so we know each other’s games very well and every now and then we give each other advice if we see something wrong – although I’m not sure he’ll be giving me any tips tomorrow!”

Austrian Thomas Feyrsinger and Frenchman Benjamin Hebert share fifth place on seven under par after carding contrasting rounds of 72 and 67.