South African ‘will win Masters’

2013-04-07 10:00

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Mix of experienced former champions and fresh blood can rain on the Tiger Woods comeback parade.

The winner of this year’s US Masters will be one of three top South African golfers: Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel or Ernie Els.

This is the bold view of golfing legend Dale Hayes, South Africa’s former three-time PGA Championship winner and founder of the Golf School of Excellence at the Zwartkop Country Club.

The Masters tees off at the Augusta National Golf Club, Georgia, from Thursday to Sunday.

There will be an unusually strong South African presence during the four-day event, with eight local players forming part of the star-studded field.

The five other local golfers are Branden Grace, George Coetzee, Tim Clark, Trevor Immelman and Richard Sterne.

Clark, ranked 58th, qualified for the Masters because he won the Players Championship in 2009.

Most of the other South Africans are there by virtue of, among other things, enjoying top-50 spots in the world rankings, but Immelman came into contention despite being ranked 264th, because he won the Masters in 2008.

Hayes believes Oosthuizen, Schwartzel and Els will put on a better showing than ever at Augusta, where his hope is that they will upstage the resurgent Tiger Woods, who has regained the number one spot.

Hayes says: “All these players are on top of their game and they will prove their might at Augusta. I’ve been watching almost all their games with interest. Unfortunately, there can only be one winner to wear the green blazer at the end of the tournament.”

He said Oosthuizen, the top-ranked SA player who is five places behind Woods in the world rankings, was most likely to capture this year’s title.

Oosthuizen, who lost to Bubba Watson in a playoff last year, scored an albatross during the tournament, which won him the European Tour Shot of the Year.

“There is no doubt he will swing the game to his favour this time around.

But Schwartzel and Els will rise to the occasion, especially on a big stage like the Masters.”

Ranked 15th, Schwartzel won the Masters in 2010 and has had a fantastic year to date.

Els, the veteran who is 24th in the world, lifted the British Open title trophy at Royal Lytham & St Annes, Lancashire, in spectacular fashion last year after leaving Adam Scott, the early pacesetter, stunned in the final round.

Hayes believes Sterne and Grace will also make their mark in the early stages of the Masters. Sterne earned his spot in the Masters by being ranked 49th.

Grace had a great year on the European Tour last year too.

With Woods back in the hunt, and many other skilful players in the mix, the Masters is sure to be a joy to watch.

It will be interesting to see how the former number one, Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy (2), and English stars Justin Rose (3) and Luke Donald (4) will hit the ball at Augusta.

Sparks are sure to fly in what is the year’s first Major.

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