Williams Makes an Age-Old Point in Telkom PGA

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Sunshine TourJan. 26, 2002 -- Sometimes, Chris Williams will tell you, you need a kick in the pants to wake up. The 42-year-old still bears the spike marks of losing his exemption on the Sunshine Tour last season. It plucked him from a comfort zone of 22 solid years spent on the tour.
 
Ironically, it was exactly what Williams needed to surge into a three-stroke lead going into Sunday's final round of the Telkom PGA Championship.
 
Williams, who has not dropped a shot in his last 46 holes of tournament golf, followed up his course record 64 in the second round with an equally impressive 65 in the third round to stand at 13-under par 203.
 
The strength of his performance was enough to shock the in-form Tim Clark, who started the round three clear of the field, into a modest 73 on a day when the duo dominated the Woodhill Country Club layout.
 
It was a classic case of age versus youth, with Williams having just spent the previous day voicing his displeasure with how technology is removing skill from the game.
 
'The character of the golf professional is changing,' Williams said with the authority of someone who hit his first golf shot for money way back in 1978.
 
'The youngsters don't have to practice as hard anymore. In the old days, if you hit it short you went to the gym to get stronger. Today, if you're short you buy a new driver or use a new ball.'
 
As an exercise in psychological warfare, it was certainly enough to unnerve the 'Just Do It' brigade at Woodhill on Saturday.
 
With Clark slipping into par mode for the first 10 holes of his round, Williams surged through the field with five birdies for an outward nine of 31 and the joint lead with the reigning South African Open champion at 11-under.
 
Both birdied the par-five 11th to move to 12-under. But Clark finally relented with a double-bogey six at the 13th, courtesy of poor lie in the rough, to drop to 10-under. He managed to salvage a birdie at the 16th, and then dropped at the last to finish the day in a four-way tie on 10-under.
 
Williams entrenched his lead with a birdie at the par-five 17th, leaving him in line to claim his second PGA title following the triumph at the Wanderers in 1985.
 
'I've watched that video at home a couple of times. It was a wonderful moment in my life,' said Williams, who also lost to Zimbabwe's Tony Johnstone in a play-off for the 1989 PGA title.
 
'While I was out there today I tried to remember what it felt like to win in 1985. Strange thing is I believe I'm a better golfer than I was then.
 
'The golf I'm playing here is a revelation for me. I've never had such low scores back-to-back. To be aged 42 and see that I can still compete with these youngsters is a great encouragement.'
 
It also signals a return to the form which saw Williams voted the Asian Tour's Player of the Year in 1998 for his unprecedented two victories on the tour that year in the Volvo Masters of Malaysia and FedEx PGA Championship in Singapore.
 
'I haven't been in contention for a while,' said Williams.
 
'I'll be somewhat nervous and excited on the first tee in the final round. I just need to control my thinking. I have the experience and I must use it.'
 
Hennie Otto carded a 68 to leave him well-placed on 10-under alongside Clark, Titch Moore and Douglas McCabe.
 
Otto, who is swinging remarkably well for a man still recovering from a back operation, is hoping to erase the memory of his disqualification from last year's tournament.
 
The stocky professional was tied for the second round lead last year before being disqualified for removing a distance marker which impeded his swing on the fourth hole.