26th July 2017 | IGT Challenge Tour
Conradie keeps a cool head to win at Wingate
(PHOTO – Ruan Conradie; credit CJ du Plooy)
TSHWANE, 26 July 2017 – It was a lot more work than he bargained on, but the result was still the one Ruan Conradie was hoping for. The Pretoria rookie squandered a comfortable lead early in the final round of the Wingate Challenge, but came back to win in a play-off over Tristen Strydom.
Conradie closed with a 75 to set the target at 10-under-par 206, but Strydom birdied the closing hole for a 71 to force the overnight leader into a play-off at the end of regulation play at Wingate Park Country Club.
However, a poor tee shot from Strydom at the first extra hole opened the door for Conradie, who ended a day packed with drama and emotion with his fourth IGT Challenge Tour victory – and second successive title as a professional.
“I am so happy it’s over,” said the relieved champion. “This day was a real battle of attrition. I had to overcome a few demons, including this course, but I’ve done it. I’m done in, but so happy.”
His four stroke lead over Strydom at the start of the round stretched to six after Strydom bogeyed the opening hole and he birdied the second.
“All I had to do was keep a clean card, but instead I made a quadruple bogey at the fifth and dropped the ninth to open the floodgates to a wave of challengers,” Conradie said.
“I hit a poor tee shot into the greenside bunker on the right at five and gummed the trap shot. The ball flew the green and I had to hit a flop-shot to the centre. Then I rammed the first putt well past the hole and needed three more putts to get the ball in the hole.
“Yes, I was angry and I to have a hard talk with myself. The pressure changed completely. I went from having a huge lead to leading by one. So, instead of protecting a lead, I had to change tactics and get aggressive to try to get a few shots between myself and the pack.”
Conradie made three solid pars, but surrendered another shot before the turn.
“Actually, that was a pretty good bogey,” said the Wanna Be A Champion Academy player. “My tee shot finished in a hazard, and I ended up holing a 10-footer for the bogey, so I actually walked off feeling good that I limited the damage.”
With nine holes to play, Conradie shared the lead at nine under with Ruan Korb and Maritz Wessels, while Strydom was three shots back after further bogeys at four and eight.
“I made a good two-putt birdie at 11 to pull one shot clear, but Tristen birdied three in a row from 11,” said Conradie. “While I made par after par, he birdied 15, had a double at 16, but finished birdie, birdie to tie me for the lead.”
Strydom’s birdie at the last sent the pair back to the 18th tee, where Conradie drove it straight down the middle, leaving himself 150 metres left to the pin. Strydom’s monster drive veered right. He had 100 metres left, but his ball nestled down in the second cut.
“I hit pitching wedge to the middle of the green, but I caught it a bit hard,” Conradie said. “The ball pitched next to the flag and rolled off the back of the green. Tristen duffed his second and it stopped 10 metres short of the green. His chip also trickled off the back of the green and after he two-putted for par. I had two putts left for a birdie and the win. I lagged it to three inches and tapped in.”
The fourth win certainly did not come easy. It took overtime to end a taut struggle with Strydom, but the reward was pretty sweet.
“Two in a row is pretty fantastic,” said Conradie. “To sleep on the lead, almost lose it and coping with all that pressure to pull it through makes it even sweeter. But the sweetest thing is pulling level with my brother. Now we both have four wins, so Estiaan better know, the race is on for the next one.”