European Tour

Have SA’s golfers lost French Open mojo?

LAST HOPE: Retief Goosen was the last South African to win the French Open. (Warren Little, Getty Images)
LAST HOPE: Retief Goosen was the last South African to win the French Open. (Warren Little, Getty Images)

Johannesburg - As other international golfers on the European Tour enjoy competing at the French Open, the struggle for South African players to win at Le Golf National in Paris, France, continues.

One of the oldest competitions on the tour, the tournament tees off on Thursday at the venue of next year’s Ryder Cup.

The contest carries with it a €3 million (R43.5 million) prize.

Same competition

But, unlike many other big events on the European Tour circuit, where South African golfers have excelled, the Open seems to be elusive for local golfers.

The last player from these shores to win at this particular venue was Retief Goosen in 1997, when he beat Englishman Jamie Spence by three strokes.

The Goose went on to win the same competition played in Médoc in 1999, where he defeated New Zealand’s Greg Turner. This was the last piece of Open silverware to be captured by a player from Mzansi.

Since then, there has been a marked scarcity of local golfers on the winners’ podium.

The course is divided into two – albatross (par-72) and eagle (par-71). There is also a short nine-hole, par-32 birdie course.

The 18-hole course is likely to be tougher for players competing at the Open this year than the past two years; the green has undergone a facelift to make it even more challenging.

The fact that the course does not suit the players could also be a reason South African players do not excel in France.

Swing their clubs

Last year’s showdown was captured by Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee, who registered -11 for 273 to beat Italy’s Francesco Molinari by four strokes.

However, the fact that they are struggling at Le Golf National has not made the South Africans despair.

This is illustrated by the fact that five players – Hennie Otto, Dean Burmester, Darren Fichardt, Brandon Stone and George Coetzee – intend to swing their clubs at the showpiece.

As expected, the Open will give the players plenty of work as the punishing course is set to have the field struggling.

  • Before Goosen’s triumph two decades ago, the late Vincent Tshabalala won the title in 1976, followed by Dale Hayes two years later.
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