Charl Schwartzel is one of South Africa's misfiring golf stars. Photo: Brian Snyder / Reuters
In terms of winning Major tournaments on the world's fairways - and we’re talking Majors because the US Open takes place at Erin Hills in June - South African golf is going through a drought.

Yes, Ernie Els won the 2012 Open Championship, Louis Oosthuizen was the recipient of a coveted Claret Jug in 2010, and Charl Schwartzel earned a Green Jacket in between.

But we aren’t exactly reliving the days when the Big Easy and the Goose were doing their heroics, and before that Mr Gary Player and Mr Locke.

Perhaps the answer is that the current crop of South Africans need to learn about self-belief from the Black Knight who won 165 tournaments over five decades, including nine Majors and nine Senior Majors.

Reading Norman Vincent Peale’s book “The Power of Positive Thinking” helped Player strengthen his self-belief. “I learned very early in my career that pure talent will get you only so far, because the mind takes over and leads a person into the realm of perfection,” Player wrote in his book ‘Don’t Choke’.

An example of this self-belief came when Gary was about to take part in the 1965 US Open. “By the first tee was a big scoreboard which included all the names of previous US Open winners. The last one said ‘1964, Ken Venturi’. Then in the space below it said ‘1965’, followed by a blank.

“The first time I walked past that scoreboard I saw in my mind the letters ‘1965, Gary Player’, as clearly as they had been painted on in beautiful, bold, capital letters. Every time I passed that board I forced myself to look at that board, and there was my name. The message was imprinted on me that it was going to happen, that it would be my year.”

Player won the 1965 US Open to become only the third player to complete the Grand Slam. He was 29 years old. That took the kind of self-belief that Schwartzel, Oosthuizen and Grace - all exempt for Erin Hills (from June 15-18) - could do with a double dose of.

Els, although not playing as well as he would like, is also exempt by virtue of him being a British Open champion within the past five years.

Ernie won the first of his two US Open titles in 1994. It must have taken plenty of self-belief considering he was 24 at the time. He won following an 18-hole play-off with Colin Montgomerie and Loren Roberts, and then a sudden-death play-off with Roberts.

Els made testing four-and five-footers to get into the two play-offs. That required more than a touch of Black Knight self-belief. But there was another reason as he explained at the time, wearing a huge grin: “I made sure I didn’t miss those putts because then my old man (his father Neels Els) would have given me a fat klap, and I certainly didn’t want that!”

The Star

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