Sentosa, Singapore, July 5: South Africa’s Justin Harding will be looking to establish himself as another genuine contender when he makes his second appearance at The Open at Royal Portrush from July 18-21.
Harding made his debut at The Open in 2013 after winning the African edition of International Final Qualifying (IFQ) but missed the cut in Muirfield then.
However, the world number 49 has since taken his game to new heights, with him notching back-to-back wins on the Asian Tour last year and emerging triumphant at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters on the European Tour earlier this year.
He was propelled further into the global spotlight after posting a commendable tied-12th result in his Masters Tournament debut in April and could spring yet another surprise with a solid showing at Royal Portrush in a fortnight.
“I’ve been more consistent over the last 15 months and I’m becoming a little better mentally too. It’s no longer really going through the highs and lows and emotional roller coaster, so to speak.
“But that also comes with not really playing with the aggressive mindset game that I used to have in the past,” said the 33-year-old.
Harding made a spectacular entrance to the Asian Tour in July at the Bank BRI Indonesia Open last year.
He received an invitation to the tournament by virtue of his outstanding form on the Sunshine Tour, and he displayed that same blistering form en route to his maiden Asian Tour victory in Jakarta. The South African promptly took up membership with the Tour after his win.
Harding’s breakthrough in Indonesia was the catalyst that saw him going on to clinch another win at the Royal Cup in Thailand a fortnight later, making him the first golfer in Tour history to win two times in as many starts.
After enjoying another four top-10s, Harding would end the year in third place on the Asian Tour Order of Merit.
“I’ve been playing good golf and making fewer mistakes. That has been the key for me. t just about trying to keep yourself in the tournament for as long as possible.
“It’s a matter of doing what I’ve been doing and seeing what happens. Things will take care of themselves if I continue to post good results,” said Harding.
Harding will be joined at The 148th Open by fellow countryman, Shaun Norris who will be making his third consecutive Open appearance.
Norris is a two-time Asian Tour winner and has qualified for the year’s fourth and final Major after finishing second on the Japan Golf Tour’s money list last year.
Like Harding, Korea’s Dongkyu Jang will also be making his second appearance at The Open after his tied-fourth finish at the Kolon Korea Open sealed his passage to the Antrim coast.
“I last played in The Open in 2014 when I won the Mizuno Open and back then I didn’t really know what to expect from links golf but I am sure that the experience will count in may favour at Royal Portrush and I’m really looking forward to it.
“I’m also looking forward to playing in front of the Irish fans who are very passionate about golf and who hopefully will give me lots of support when I play there,” said Jang.