Cape Town - Now that the public are starting to believe South Africa’s Major drought will continue, is there an upset in the offing?
The one thing about Major golf is that - here comes the cliché - anyone can win it if you are in decent position on the weekend. Shinnecock Hills is being spoken about by the players like Augusta is your local mashie, Phil, Tiger, Rory - they’ve all confessed to loving it. But it’ll be a test, the greens will be ramped up to scary speeds and the rough is ready to gobble up any wayward shot.
There is some positive mojo to be tapped into after Retief Goosen won here in 2004. Good, positive mojo if you ignore that his playing partner in the final round was Ernie Els, who slumped to a final round 80. That’s the test and prospect facing the world’s best this week.
Branden Grace is SA’s best bet for a first Major win since 2012.
But he’s only 14th favourite and comes with big odds at 40/1. Before you get to his name, you have the likes of last week’s winner and world No 1 Dustin Johnson, the man he replaced Justin Thomas, red-hot Justin Rose (can we claim him as a SA winner because he was born in Johannesburg?) and then the usual suspects like Rory, Rickie and Jordan.
You can see the predicament and the size of the task facing Grace as the leading Saffa. Louis Oosthuizen is next best and he’s tipped in at 60/1. Odds long enough to get you interested but then again, there’s a reason for such a juicy offer.
So who will follow in Brooks Koepka’s footsteps this week?
Let’s rule the bulky American out first because no player has defended the title in the last decade. The trends also point to a player under the age of 32 - that rules out Louis. Only two of the last 10 were in the top 30 in the world when they won - that makes it really tough for 34th-ranked Grace to buck the trend. The last sign to be looked at is the current trend of first time winners - nine in the last 10 Majors were first-timers.
That brings three high-ranked players into the equation - Rickie Fowler (20/1) who was a contender at the Masters, Jon Rahm (23/1) who has won plenty and ready to tick Major winner off his list and Hideki Matsuyama (34/1), quietly under the radar, but was T2 in last year’s event. Outside of this trio? Well, anyone around the top 25 heading into the weekend have a great chance.
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