Jaco van Zyl heads into this week’s 86th PGA Championship as a member of an exclusive club of champions in South Africa’s second oldest professional golf tournament, having achieved what only Gary Player, Ernie Els, Harold Henning and Dale Hayes have managed to do.
Van Zyl is a three-time winner of the South African PGA Championship in 2009, 2013 and 2016. That puts him alongside Player, Els, Henning and Hayes as the only golfers to have their name on this famous trophy three or more times.
It’s these memories and his place in South African golf history that Van Zyl takes with him to St Francis Links this week when the R1.2 million tournament tees off on Thursday, as he continues trying to rediscover his form after a wrist injury and then a spinal fusion.
“I’m still battling a lot of demons in my game. There are moments where there are signs that it’s coming back, but the last three years after my wrist and spinal fusion have been an uphill battle to get my game to where it was,” Van Zyl said.
“Fortunately my body is all sorted out for now. There is no pain and I’ve got no injuries, so from that perspective it’s really nice to play again. It just depends on the week for me at the moment.”
Van Zyl said he was expecting a tough challenge from a St Francis Links course that was hosting the championship for the first time.
“It was a little bit breezy in the pro-am, and this course is a proper challenge,” he said.
“You need to hit it straight and really get it out there a fair distance otherwise you’re going to be hitting three wood into some of the par fours.
“I’m expecting the greens to get quicker as well. This week is a proper test.”
But like Player and Els before him, Van Zyl has certainly shown he’s up to the test that a South African PGA Championship will bring.