A trying situation continued for DP World Tour officials at the Joburg Open in South Africa when thunderstorms forced third-round play to be suspended on Saturday. With worsening weather coming and looming concerns over the new COVID variant surfacing in the country, officials decided to cancel the round entirely and called the tournament off after 36 holes.
South Africa’s Thriston Lawrence was declared the winner after shooting a pair of 65s in the opening two rounds at Randpark Golf Club in Johanneburg. The 24-year-old’s 12-under 130 total was four shots clear of countryman Zander Lombard, giving Lawrence his first victory on the former European Tour.
On Friday, tournament officials were scrambling to address the issues surrounding the new COVID variant, Omicron, that caused several countries to begin restricting travel from southern Africa. More than a dozen British and Irish players had withdrawn from the tournament in a race to get home before the restrictions took effect.
The tour eventually announced that it was reducing the tournament to 54 holes, with the third and final round to finish on Saturday, “to help non-South African resident players, caddies and tournament support staff return to their home countries. The decision was taken to help facilitate their safe return and give them an extra day to make travel arrangements”.
The next two DP World Tour events were also to be played in South Africa, and both have been pulled from the schedule. The South African Open, set for December 2-5, currently will be a Sunshine Tour event only, and the Alfred Dunhill Championship (December 9-12) has been cancelled entirely.
Suffice it to say, it was an auspicious debut for the formerly named European Tour, which was being rebranded the DP World Tour and was playing its first tournament of the 2021-2022 season. But for Lawrence, 503rd in the world ranking entering the week, this first win in just his 22nd career start on the tour was meaningful nonetheless.
“I’m shaking, to be honest. It’s so surreal,” Lawrence said. “I don’t think anybody thought it would turn out this way. I’m so thankful. It’s a life changing moment for me.”
The Joburg Open was also serving as a qualifier for the 2022 Open Championship at St Andrews. The top three finishers who weren’t already qualified for next July’s Major earned spots into the field, with Lawrence, Lombard and England’s Ashley Chesters (tied for third) receiving the bids. There were no Australians in the field.
PHOTO: Stuart Franklin