Els and Goosen resume duel

2011-11-24 00:00

JOHANNESBURG — South Africans Ernie Els and Retief Goosen resume their home-country rivalry this week, as the million-euro South African Open kicks off at the Serengeti Golf Club.

Last year’s edition went down to the wire, with Els holding off a four-birdie Goosen comeback on the last five to win by a single stroke at the Durban Country Club, the Johannesburg native’s third victory in the tournament.

Goosen, from the northern city of Polokwane, has won the contest twice — both times holding off Els.

“Ernie and I have had an interesting rivalry in the South African Open over the years. It’s something I’m particularly proud of: that we can produce our best golf against each other in our national Open,” Goosen said.

“It is important for the South African fans as well as the tournament, which is one of the oldest in world golf and one which we as South African professionals are very proud of.”

The contest, the second-oldest national championship after the British Open, turns 101 this year.

Notably absent from the November 24 to 27 tournament will be fellow South Africans and Major winners Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, who are at the Omega Mission Hills World Cup in China.

But South Africans George Coet­zee, Thomas Aiken and Garth Mulroy will all be eyeing the 158 500-euro first prize — Mulroy fresh off his win at South Africa’s Alfred Dunhill Championship last weekend.

Simon Dyson, who has already won twice this season, will be looking to become the first English champion since Tommy Horton in 1970.

The field of 180 also includes several players facing their second-to-last chance of the season to secure their card for the 2012 campaign.

Welshman Stephen Dodd, England’s John Parry and Nick Dougherty, Denmark’s Jeppe Huldahl and Swede Oskar Henningsson are all European Tour champions, but face a trip to qualifying school next month unless they find form in South Africa.

Spanish ace Pablo Martin will also be looking to get his game back after missing out on golf history last week, when he had a chance to become just the fifth player to win the same European Tour event three times in a row but shot 19 over par to miss the weekend cut at the Dunhill Championship.

It is the first time the South African Open has been held at the Serengeti Golf Club, located on the outskirts of Johannesburg.

The course, called the Masai Mara, was designed by Jack Nicklaus and opened in 2009. The estate on which it is located trumpets its “rugged grassland and dune-scape look and feel”.

The par-72 course’s signature hole is number eight, a par-five with an island green.

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