Cape Town - South African golfers are teeing off in varying numbers and for different stakes on the US, European and Sunshine tours on Thursday, making it one of the more active weeks in the sport.
The three events are the Tour Championship in Atlanta, Georgia, the Scandinavian Masters in Gothenburg, Sweden, and the opening leg of the Vodacom Origins of Golf series at Sishen in the Northern Cape.
South Africa’s top-ranked golfer Louis Oosthuizen is the only player from Mzansi to have qualified for the big tournament in Atlanta which features the leading men in the world.
Only the top 30 players in the FedEx Cup standings advanced to the event, with Oosthuizen taking 27th spot after being tied for 11th place in the BMW Championship at Medinah last weekend.
But the format is such that “King Louis” has to start on even par, in stark contrast to FedEx Cup leader Justin Thomas of the U.S. starting on 10-under par.
The winner of the Tour Championship pockets a whopping $15 million (R227 513 250), up from the $10 million scooped by Justin Rose of England last year, along with the FedEx Cup trophy.
In the Swedish event on the Euro circuit, the purse is €1.5 million (R25 260 796) and the South Africans involved there are led by Erik van Rooyen, who was tied for fifth in the Czech Masters last Sunday.
Van Rooyen is joined in Scandinavia by several compatriots who also competed in Prague. They are Dean Burmester, George Coetzee, Brandon Stone, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Zander Lombard, Justin Walters, Louis de Jager, Haydn Porteous, Jacques Kruyswijk and Darren Fichardt.
On the local Sunshine Tour, the 16th season of the Vodacom Origins of Golf series tees off at Sishen Golf Club in the Northern Cape with the organisers reporting a number of new incentives for rising young professionals.
Aside from being a springboard to the top-paying tours, each of the five tournaments in the series boasts increased prize money of R1 million, a 20% increase from the R800 000 per tournament last year.
Moreover, the final event of this year’s series will also serve as a qualifying tournament for December’s €1 million AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, a tri-sanctioned tournament between the European Tour, Asian Tour and Sunshine Tour, where the winner will earn playing privileges on all three tours.
The Sishen tournament started with a 36-hole pro-am on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by the main 54-hole tournament.