PGA Tour

SA golfers ready for Masters stroke

AMAZING: Branden Grace will be out to give a great showing at the Masters Tournament. (Stan Badz, PGA Tour)
AMAZING: Branden Grace will be out to give a great showing at the Masters Tournament. (Stan Badz, PGA Tour)

Local names will be in the running to compete for the coveted green jacket and the R22.4m prize as they tee off at Augusta.

It is that time of the year when the golfing fraternity ushers in the Masters Tournament.

The first golf major of the year tees off at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, US, on April 6, with the crème de la crème of world golf competing for the coveted green jacket and the $1.8 million (R22.4 million) first prize.

For South Africa, it will be the usual suspects when five players – Trevor Immelman, Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen and Ernie Els – take to the fairways at the hallowed course.

World rankings

They played in last year’s contest, which was won by England’s Danny Willett, who closed with a five under-par 283.

Oosthuizen finished tied 15th last year, but the rest of his compatriots missed the cut.

Immelman and Schwartzel qualified by virtue of winning the event in 2008 and 2011, respectively. Previous Masters winners gain automatic qualification, hence both will be playing once more.

Grace and Oosthuizen will compete because they are inside the top 50 in world rankings.

Grace, who is placed 19th, is the country’s leading golfer in the global rankings.

Oosthuizen’s name appears 27th.

And there is also the struggling Els, who has booked a ticket to the Masters because of his 2012 British Open win. That victory ensured the “Big Easy” a five-year participation stretch in the Masters.

But his time in the contest may come to an end this year, depending on whether he wins something big on the PGA Tour or one of the majors.

Els is currently in a precarious position in the world rankings as his name appears at a disappointing 404th in this week’s rankings.

Fellow countrymen

According to Sunshine Tour marketing director Duncan Cruickshank, the players are ready to do the country proud by playing well at Augusta.

“They have been so serious at their different games on the European and US circuits, where they compete. They want to give it their best shot this time around,” said Cruickshank.

However, Grace will most likely carry the weight of his fellow countrymen at the Masters.

His form was impressive last year as he lifted the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters trophy on the European Tour after posting a -14 for 274 at Doha Golf Club in January.

As if “Amazing Grace” wasn’t amazing enough, he finished tied fourth at the PGA Championship – the fourth major of the season – at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey, in July.

This was his best showing on the PGA stage.

Schwartzel won the Valspar Championship on the PGA Tour by beating James Hass in a play-off on the first extra hole at Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida, in March last year. That was Schwartzel’s maiden win on the PGA.

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