Jaco van Zyl’s caddie John Rawlings reckons two champions emerged from the $7-million Turkish Airlines Open. One was Frenchman Victor Dubuisson who closed with a 66 at the Montgomerie Maxx Royal Golf Club course just outside Antalya on the Mediterranean south coast to take the first place cheque of just over 1-million euros on 22-under-par 266.

“The three of us had a great battle going all day and I felt I gave it the very
best I’ve got”

The other “champion”, according to Rawlings, was Van Zyl himself who ran playing partner Dubuisson close all day only to fall short by just one shot following a 67 in this world-class line-up.

Van Zyl’s sturdy effort needs to be put in context. Need we be reminded, but in 2014 the golfer didn’t hit a shot for 10 frustrating months because of major operations to both knees, as well as further surgery when he did try and make a comeback and suffered a setback. First in a wheelchair, then unable to walk for four solid months – the 13-time champion on the Sunshine Tour lost 20kg  and his power as a result, and he wondered if he’d ever play at the top level again.

So this performance, on top of an excellent 2015 season, has – as he admitted – confirmed in his own mind that he is well and truly back and able to compete at the very highest level. He is golf’s renaissance man.

“After what Jaco’s been through, he’s a winner in our eyes,” said his partner Stacy Stokes once the last putt had been holed, and Rawlings was quick to nod in agreement.

Van Zyl, who opened with a sizzling 61, playing brilliant golf all day in the final round and led by one with two holes to go but finished par-par while Dubuiisson closed with a couple of last-gasp birdies for his 66 and his second victory inside three years on this course as he was also champion in 2013. The third member of their final group – Kiradech Aphibarnrat from Thailand – was third on 268 while tournament drawcard Rory McIlroy tied for fifth on 272.

“The three of us had a great battle going all day and I felt I gave it the very best I’ve got,” said the 36-year-old Dainfern professional. “I felt I didn’t make a mistake all day and I stayed in the mix,” added Van Zyl who earned nearly 700 000 euros as runner-up, which equates to over R10-million. This moved him up from 51st all to the way to 16th in the Race to Dubai, and from 132nd to 75th in the world rankings.

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