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Phillips coasts to Players Championship victory

08 Feb 2015

Maritzburg senior Morgan Phillips receives the prestigious Players Championship trophy from SAGA Senior Amateur president Chris Delport after claiming a three stroke victory at the Gary Player Country Club; credit Bernard Stander.

KwaZulu-Natal’s Morgan Phillips delivered a splendid final round performance at the Gary Player Country Club to cruise to victory at the prestigious Players Championship at Sun City on Sunday.

Fanus van Niekerk, who played with Phillips over the first two rounds, predicted that the Maritzburg golfer’s course management would carry him to a podium finish and the 53-year-old senior did not disappoint.

Phillips caught SA number one Mellette Hendrikse and overhauled overnight leader Basil Naidoo with a carefully constructed one-over-par 73 for a three stroke victory on eight-over-par 224.

“I came third in 2013 and I was a joint runner-up last year, so people said I should win this year, but let me tell you, it was a very hard grind to get to the winner’s circle,” Phillips said.

“Only the top 50 seniors in the country qualify to play the Players Championship, so to compete against the cream of the crop and come out on top is incredibly special for me.”

KwaZulu-Natal’s Naidoo and Hendrikse from Gauteng North both had moments of brilliance, but Philips navigated the tough championship layout with great accuracy.

He negated back-to-back bogeys at the fourth and fifth with a brace of birdies at the 10th and 11th, dropped another shot at the short 12th, but responded with a textbook birdie at the 14th to take pole position after Naidoo signed for a seven at the par-five.

He bogeyed the 15th, but three solid pars on the way home guaranteed his victory.

“The course was in pristine condition, but it played long and the rough was quite penal,” said Phillips.

“The first two rounds were already tough, but we played the same final round pins as the pros did in the Nedbank Golf Challenge in December.

“You had to plan your route into every green and execute your shots flawlessly. One mistake, and you were thankful for a bogey. You had to keep your wits about yourself.”

Naidoo led the first and second rounds and held on to the lead, despite bogeys at five, six and nine.

The 57-year-old Greater North golfer had four straight pars after the turn, including a fantastic escape for par at the 12th after he parked his tee shot in no-man’s-land behind the green.

However, his title bid came unstuck after a wayward tee shot, and a lost ball at the 15th.

Naidoo was tied for second with Hendrikse coming down the last, but fluffed a chip out of the thick rough at the back of the green and closed with a bogey for a 79. He finished third on 228, one stroke behind Hendrikse, who signed for a 77.

The South African number one got off to a birdie start, but double bogeyed the second and dropped two more shots at the fourth. He birdied six, but gave the gain back at the eighth.

The 57-year-old Akasia golfer turned in three over and had five straight pars from the 10th, but dropped off the pace after a double bogey at the 15th.

He made an incredible par at the 17th after his tee shot nestled at the top edge of the deep fairway bunker and he had to play his second from a very awkward stance, and saved par at the closing hole for the runner-up spot.

FINAL RESULT (top 10)
224 Morgan Phillips 77 74 73
227 Mellette Hendrikse 76 74 77
228 Basil Naidoo 74 75 79
231 Jock Wellington 76 75 80
232 William Skinner 80 78 74; Mark O'Brien 75 80 77
233 Derik Piek 80 75 78
234 Lynton Beckett 76 79 79
235 Schalk Naude 80 76 79
236 George Bezuidenhout 84 74 78

To view the full final results, click HERE 

Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the South African Golf Association.

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