• Erik’s the best bet

    Erik van Rooyen
    Van Rooyen lines up a putt with caddie Alex Gaugert

    His trousers may not be everyone’s cup of tea but Erik van Rooyen has become a seriously good golfer over the past few years, writes JOHN GOLIATH.

    International team captain Ernie Els this week said that he ‘didn’t enjoy’ making his wild-card picks for next month’s Presidents Cup event against the United States after having to leave out a ‘few close friends’.

    It was a tough one. I didn’t enjoy it, to be honest. There were many guys in there, especially a lot of my really close friends,’ said Els at Sun City ahead of the Nedbank Golf Challenge.

    ‘Branden Grace was right there, and I went against him. So that was really tough for me to do. Erik van Rooyen started playing great. It was tough to do that, not getting him on the team …’

    Van Rooyen must feel a bit aggrieved not making the team. He has had a grand season, while many other top South African golfers faded, especially in the second half of the year.

    The 29-year-old opened his European Tour account in August at the Scandinavian Invitational following a few near misses in 2018, which saw him named the Challenge Tour Graduate of the Year.

    He was involved in a six-man playoff at last weekend’s Turkish Airlines Open, a Rolex Series event just like this week’s challenge. He has also shot up to 51st in the Official World Golf Ranking, and only needs a couple of good finishes to qualify for next year’s Masters at Augusta National.

    The legendary Els must have been tempted to give Van Rooyen one of the wild-card spots, because he looks like the ideal matchplay player. He plays a fearless brand of golf and always backs his ability – he made eagle on the 72nd hole from 20 foot last week to show his clutch nature.

    There isn’t a pin he doesn’t feel he can attack, which is almost as bold as the ‘jogger’ trousers he wore at The Open earlier this year.

    Van Rooyen finished the Nedbank Challenge in a tie for 60th place last year, but could be in contention this week if he adapts his game to the conditions and the course layout at the Gary Player Country Club, which is the third-longest course on the European tour.

    Sun City is a place where you sometimes have to be patient and wait for the right opportunity to pounce. Van Rooyen has already had a stellar year, and if he can stay in the moment and make the right decisions this weekend he has a big chance to win. 

    To win big tournaments with quality fields you have to be able to play well, but also be willing to get down and dirty in a scrap.

    Van Rooyen has the game, and he has that streetfighter look about him as well. Yep, his dress sense polarises opinions, but what is not up for discussion is his ability.

    He is a good bet to win big in Sun City.

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