Having won the Tshwane Open at the beginning of the year, Van der Walt, above, looked poised for a good season, particularly on the European Tour but he admitted after lifting the trophy at Mount Edgecombe at the weekend that a badly sprained ankle had affected his game badly.
“In between nothing happened,” Van der Walt said. “I was feeling confident after I won the Tshwane Open and thought that my game was fine. Then I went to Europe and struggled. It was hard to adapt, I don’t know how to explain it, it’s just your expectations are very high, but your game isn’t quite there.
“I struggled in Europe and missed five out of six cuts. Then I went back to the United States. I sprained my ankle and that put my golf swing into positions I didn’t like and I wasn’t hitting the ball quite as well. I was always protecting it against my left ankle and I missed every cut after I sprained my ankle.”
In winning the year’s final event, Van der Walt took his Sunshine Tour earnings past the R5-million mark and in doing so pipped Darren Fichardt to claim the Order of Merit at the end of the co-sanctioned event by some R700 000.
That victory means that the 30-year-old earns a place in the British Open in Liverpool next year, the first time Van der Walt has been in this position, and it’s an opportunity he is relishing.
“That will be my first Major. Hoylake. I’ve never played in a Major, so I’d like to see how my game stacks up. Hopefully I’ll be in pretty good form going in there. I’m just really blessed and thankful that it happened.”
Van der Walt said that all he could do was keep swinging in the hope that his game, and fortunes, would improve.
“What other choice do you have? This is your job. A lot of hard work, analysing your swing, trying to figure out where I went wrong, a lot of sleepless nights. I just didn’t give up and I kept trying,” he said.
“My game was terrible and I felt like it slowly started getting back when I got healthier. I’ve played great golf this year, terrible golf, and now good golf again. For the last two weeks I felt that my game’s trying to get back to where it used to be,” he added.