THE PLAYERS Championship, the tournament with the highest prize fund in golf, takes place in Miami, Florida this weekend. Independent Media sports writer Jacques van der Westhuyzen has profiled the South Africans taking part.
Charl Schwartzel: The 32-year-old former Masters champion is looking for his first win on American soil since winning the Valspar Championship last season. He goes into the Players with some decent form behind him, having finished strongly at the Masters with a third place and sixth at the Valspar, where he was defending. The No 17 player in the world is probably our best bet to triumph on Sunday.
Branden Grace: The man who came so close at the US Open and the PGA Championships in recent times hasn’t enjoyed a memorable 2017, but there is a long way to go, with three Majors to come. He has three top-20s, at the Valero Texas Open, the RBC Heritage, where he was defending champion, and the Sony Open in Hawaii. At 22 in the rankings, he’ll be a player to keep an eye on.
Louis Oosthuizen: He won the British Open in 2015 and nearly made it two in a row at St Andrews in 2015 when he missed out in a play-off to Zach Johnson, but his only other close-call came at the Masters in 2012, where he lost to Bubba Watson in a play-off. The 34-year-old hasn’t quite lived up to the promise and this year has a best finish of third at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. It’s time he won a big one again.
Tyrone van Aswegen: Those who are regular viewers of the PGA Tour will know that the 35-year-old has been making steady progress in the States for quite some time now. Born in Joburg, Van Aswegen has been based in America for a while and is a graduate of Oklahoma City University. He is currently ranked 109 in the FedEx Cup standings and 248 in the world rankings. He’ll just be extremely pleased to be teeing it up at Sawgrass.
Ernie Els: From next year the Big Easy will have to win a good number of tournaments or have to qualify to play in the Majors and events like the Players as his five-year exemption, after winning the Open in 2012, ends this year. The four-time Major winner has battled this season, but is coming off a 53rd place finish at the Masters. He, however, has no top-10s this season and is ranked 412 in the world.