Compleat Golfer breaks down the history, form and themes of the six South Africans chasing the big one, the US Open at Shinnecock Hills, writes WADE PRETORIUS.
Ernie Els (7:36pm with Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk)
While his world ranking has slipped over the years, Els is a two-time US Open winner and was afforded the chance to play in his 26th US Open after receiving an exemption.
He floundered in the final round of the 2004 US Open – the last time it was played at Shinnecock Hills – as he shot a final round 80 as a member of the all-South African final pairing. The winner that day Retief Goosen was offered an exemption into the 2016 US Open with the USGA reserving two exemptions only for golf’s elite.
Speaking on Tuesday, Els appeared relaxed over the fact that this might be his last appearance at a tournament ― traditionally set up as the hardest of the four Majors ― that also includes a second place finish, a third and 10 top tens. With four missed cuts in a row, the Big Easy will be looking to secure a weekend place and enjoy the ride in.
Louis Oosthuizen (1:29pm with Justin Rose and Jimmy Walker)
Oosthuizen once again starts a Major as South Africa’s top-ranked player. He’s in decent form despite two missed cuts in his last six events.
The other four tournaments, which don’t include his runner-up finish with Charl Schwartzel in the Zurich Classic, have seen the one-time Major champion finish T13 or better, including The Masters where he ended in a share of fifth place.
Oosthuizen’s game remains as controlled as ever and with Shinnecock Hills playing with a links feel, he could be a real danger with many overlooking him in favour of those ranked in the world’s top 10.
In 2015 at the much-maligned Chambers Bay, Oosthuizen started with a 77 but made the weekend with a second round 66 which he repeated the Saturday. A final round 67 saw him finish just a stroke behind Jordan Spieth, a clear sign that if Oosthuizen can start well then he’ll be competing late on Sunday.
Branden Grace (1:40pm with Bubba Watson and Jason Day)
A poor swing on the 16th tee shot at the 2015 US Open saw Grace narrowly miss out on a playoff with Spieth. The following year he added another top-five finish and was left to rue a final round 71 after playing his way into contention with a 66 in round three.
Grace is the bookies’ favourite to be SA’s best bet this week and it’s hard not to see why with two top fives in his last three outings and a streak of cuts made that now extends to 20.
The reigning Nedbank Golf Challenge champion has just one win on US soil and would dearly love to make it two as he attempts to add ‘Major winner’ to his CV.
Charl Schwartzel (1:51pm with Zach Johnson and Patrick Reed)
Just when things were starting to look up, Schwartzel made the weekend at FedEx St. Jude Classic and went on to play it 13 over par.
That kind of weekend may go on to motivate Schwartzel as he looks to build on strong showings in recent weeks – T2 at Zurich Classic, T9 at Wells Fargo, T2 at The Players.
He’ll need to be on his game because if he’s known as a steady contender at The Masters then the US Open is quite the opposite with two missed cuts in his last four championships and just two top 10s in 11 starts with his seventh-place finish at Chambers Bay in 2015 his best result.
Dylan Frittelli (1:18pm with Doug Ghim (a) and Jhonattan Vegas)
Frittelli makes his US Open debut as he completes his appearance slam in Majors. Frittelli is struggling with a little bit of the second season syndrome as he attempts to play his way onto the PGA TOUR after a breakthrough season in Europe. His current form stands with four cuts in his last seven events with his T20 finish at the Valero Texas Open his highlight.
Dean Burmester (6:30pm with Sam Burns and Brian Gay)
Makes his US Open debut after playing his way to Shinnecock Hills via the qualifying section in England. A T12 at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth is his best result in a year that hasn’t seen him take the step up after ending the Race to Dubai with a T3 in the season finale.