Which SA golfer has the winning touch?

2014-07-17 00:00

TODAY sees the start of the 143rd Open Championship at Hoylake in Liverpool.

South Africa lifted the prized Claret Jug as recently as 2010 and 2012 through Louis Oosthuizen and Ernie Els respectively, but it will take something special for one of the country’s eight participants at this year’s Championship to be in the mix come Sunday.

Charl Schwartzel is the only South African currently in the top 50 of golf’s world rankings (26th) and he is the only South African in the field other than Els and Oosthuizen to have won a major.

These are dark days for SA golf, given that for a long period we were accustomed to going into the majors with three or four serious contenders through Els, Schwartzel, Oosthuizen and — to a lesser extent —Retief Goosen. But it has been a while since a South African has challenged at a major.

Could this be the week?


Age: 27

Ranking: 72nd

2013 Open: 71st

Coetzee qualified for this year’s Open by winning the Joburg Open in February — his only triumph on the European Tour to date. 2012 was Coetzee’s breakthrough year when he broke into the top 50, but he has since slipped back down to the 70s though he enters this week as SA’s fifth highest ranked golfer.

2014 has been a consistent year for the Affies old boy, and even if he has not set the Tour alight he has gone about his business quietly and solidly with regular finishes in the top 20.

He could be worth a look.


Age: 44

Ranking: 58th

2013 Open: 26th

Els pulled a rabbit out of the hat in 2012 when he won the Open — his first major for 10 years — from nowhere.

That victory suggests that you can never count the Big Easy out, but as the years go by the chances of another Els success on the biggest stage seem unlikely. He has, self-admittedly, not played well for six months. One thing working in Els’s favour, though, is that in 2006 he finished third in the Open behind Tiger Woods and Chris di Marco at Hoylake.

He still speaks fondly of the course, and says it brings out the best in him.

Let’s hope he’s right.


Age: 26

Ranking: 90th

2013 Open: 64th

Much is expected of Grace, and many consider him to be the future of South African golf. He has impressed in his short career so far, with wins at the 2012 Volvo Golf Champions as well as three other titles on the European Tour — all in that year.

He has not won since then and has not finished in the top 25 of his last 12 tournaments. This suggests that Grace is far from his best and that he won’t be in contention this week, but if ever there was a time to come good, this would be it.


Age: 31

Ranking: 52nd

2013 Open: 155th

Who could forget Oosthuizen demolishing the field to become an unexpected winner at the 2010 Open at St. Andrews?

It was the win that kick-started his career in the big leagues, and ever since then he has been feared and respected by his rivals. But he goes into Hoylake a shadow of that player. A relentless back injury has seen Oosthuizen become very selective when choosing what tournaments he plays in, and he has only featured in eight European events so far this year. Class, as they say, is permanent and Oosthuizen has plenty of that. Injury or not, he remains one of SA’s best chances.


Age: 29

Ranking: 26th

2013 Open: 15th

All of the stats suggest that Schwartzel is SA’s main threat. He may not have won a title in 2014, but has done enough to keep from falling down the world rankings ladder like Oosthuizen and co. have. His Masters triumph in 2011 seems like it happened an age ago, but what it did was prove that he has what it takes to win the big ones. That being said, his major record in 2014 doesn’t make for good reading after he was cut from both the Masters and the U.S. Open.

It seems very hit and miss for SA’s number one at the moment, but he more than anyone will be backing himself to get it right in Liverpool.


Age: 32

Ranking: 65th

2013 Open: 21st

Sterne has been a professional for a long time after joining the European Tour in 2003.

Since then, he has notched up no fewer than six Tour victories, though only two happened outside of SA.

Now a regular feature on the European Tour, Sterne can boast top 40 finishes in his last two Open appearances. Guaranteed to be away from the spotlight and headlines, Sterne can go quietly about his business on Thursday and Friday. That’s the way he likes it, and with a little bit of luck his name will be there or thereabouts come the weekend.


Age: 31

Ranking: 189th

2013 Open: n/a

It has been a wild year or two for the 1,9 metre giant who takes part in his first ever major this week.

A cool character, Van der Walt is unlikely to be overawed by the occasion as he goes in largely unnoticed. He earned qualification to Hoylake by virtue of winning 2013’s Order of Merit on the Sunshine Tour, winning the Nelson Mandela Championship along the way.

He is unlikely to ruffle any feathers, but taking his place alongside the world’s best should see him raise his game in what will be an unforgettable experience for him.


Age: 33

Ranking: 241st

2013 Open: n/a

Walters qualified for the Open, his first major tournament, when he finished as a joint runner-up at this year’s Joburg Open, which formed part of the qualifying series for Hoylake. Walters goes into the week as by far the lowest ranked South African in the field.

His chances are slim to none, and the two-time Sunshine Tour winner would surely be happy with making the cut and being a part of the weekend action.

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