SA destined to produce another No 1

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Grace_China1 REUTERS Branden Grace of South Africa poses with the trophy after winning the China Open.

The stats are pretty impressive. Ten professionals in the top 100 of the men’s world rankings – Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Retief Goosen, Ernie Els, Branden Grace, George Coetzee, Jaco van Zyl, Rory Sabbatini, Thomas Aiken and Hennie Otto. Dylan Fritelli is the top ranked college golfer in the US, and fellow Gauteng North golfer Kim Williams No 2 in the women’s world amateur rankings.

And Grace, who was victorious in the Volvo China Open on Sunday, wasn’t the only South African winner over the weekend. On the Champions Tour in America, sweet-swinging David Frost teamed up with Michael Allen of the US to shoot a betterball 62 on Sunday for a 29-under-par aggregate of 187 and a one-stroke victory over John Cook and Joey Sindelar in the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf championship. Frost eagled the 14th to put the team at 29-under, and that proved decisive.

Bobby Locke, with four British Open titles to his name, and the legend that was, and still is, Gary Player (over 160 worldwide wins, nine Majors, nine Senior Majors) put SA firmly on the world golf map. Next came Els and Goosen who between them won five Majors. Then Trevor Immelman won the Masters before Oosthuizen triumphed in the 2010 British Open and his close friend, Schwartzel, captured last year’s Masters. And let’s not forget Durban-born Nick Price who won three Majors

Oosthuizen nearly made it Major No 2 on his CV by coming so close in this year’s Masters before losing in a sudden-death play-off to big-hitting Bubba Watson.

No trouble to Louis, he put that loss behind him to win the Malaysian Open a week later. Then, on Sunday, 23-year-old Grace wins the China Open – his third victory on the European Tour this year, and he has already being compared to the great Seve Ballesteros at a similar age. In the past six months, there have been no less than eight SA wins on the European Tour – Garth Mulroy (1), Otto (1), Jbe Kruger (1), Oosthuizen (2) and Grace (3).

In terms of numbers of golfers, SA remains tiny compared to countries like the US, the United Kingdom, Australia and even some European nations – Sweden on top of that list. Yet we continue to fight well above our weight. Lee-Anne Pace and Ashleigh Simon are multiple winners in women’s professional golf while back home Brandon Stone and Haydn Porteous are a couple of young amateurs who look destined for the top.

Els was our last world No1. So is there another SA golfer who can get to that lofty position? You bet there is: Schwartzel, Oosthuizen, Grace – and there may be a couple of other candidates. Take your pick. – The Star


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