Thirteen South Africans are in the field this week, down from the original fourteen after Louis de Jager unfortunately returned a positive Covid-19 test and was forced to withdraw. Let’s take a closer look at our fellow countrymen representing SA this week in Kent, England.
Playing in his 30th Open Championship, Ernie Els has been the country’s flag bearer at the oldest tournament in golf ever since he made his debut at Royal Troon back in 1989. The two-time Open champion, including thirteen top 10s of which nine were in the top five, has always been a popular figure with the British crowds who will no doubt be spurring him on as he looks to emulate his old rival and good friend, Phil Mickelson, by winning a Major championship after the age of 50.
It was at this very championship that Louis Oosthuizen announced himself to the world by winning The Open at St Andrews in 2010. However, other than a runner-up finish in 2015, again at St Andrews, Oosthuizen hasn’t quite reached the heights one might have expected from him at The Open with just one other top-25 finish in 12 starts. Oosthuizen does have form in his favour, arriving at Sandwich playing some of the best golf of his career. Having finished as the runner-up in the last two Major championships, you would not want to bet against him going one better and winning a much-deserved second Major.
Garrick Higgo is making his debut at The Open Championship this week. Despite winning three tournaments in Europe as well as a maiden triumph on the PGA Tour in the past twelve months, Higgo is still very much finding his feet on the international stage. Playing the majority of the golf courses for the first time, makes the Stellenbosch youngster’s achievements all the more impressive. There will be a certain level of expectation as he gets his first taste of links golf in a Major championship – however, one thing is for sure, Garrick Higgo knows how to get the job done.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout will be playing in his second Open Championship this week. A golfer who places a premium on accuracy off the tee, Bezuidenhout will fancy his chances this week as he looks to build on a couple of decent performances in his last two Major outings where he performed admirably before fading on the final day at both the PGA Championship and the US Open. A cool, calm and collected player, Bezuidenhout has the right mental fortitude for the big events and we have a feeling this week will be his best finish to date.
Always at his best by the sea and in a breeze, Branden Grace looks primed for The Open courtesy of some decent form heading into the event, including two top-10 finishes in his last three starts. Like Oosthuizen, Grace doesn’t quite have the Open record one might expect from him but as a former winner of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and the holder of the only round of 62 in men’s Major championship history, could this be Branden’s week?
Before we forget, South African golfers have had a hugely successful year to date in terms of wins on all of the PGA Tour, European Tour, as well as the Challenge Tour. All of Justin Harding (Magical Kenya Open), Daniel van Tonder (Kenya Savannah Classic), Dean Burmester (Tenerife Open), JC Ritchie (Bain’s Whisky Cape Town Open) find themselves at Royal St Georges this week with both Van Tonder and Ritchie making their first appearances.
Based on the PGA Tour these days, both Dylan Frittelli and Erik van Rooyen are well down the points list in the FedEx Cup. They will be hoping a trip across the Atlantic kickstarts their 2021 season, giving themselves a fighting chance heading into the playoffs. Shaun Norris, a stalwart on the Japan Golf Tour over the past five years, makes his fourth appearance at The Open this week. Jaco Ahlers first experienced The Open Championship way back in 2009 at Turnberry, so it has been a long wait for the nine-time winner on the Sunshine Tour to get a second bite at the cherry.
When Richard Bland hits the opening tee shot at Royal St Georges at 7:35am SAT, it will mark two years since Shane Lowry became the last man to lift the Claret Jug back in 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. Arguably the most prestigious Major championship of them all, The Open is back and we at Compleat Golfer HQ can’t wait to watch the action unfold.