Favourite Oosthuizen faces stiff challenge
The second oldest Open in the game tees off at Randpark tomorrow with the full field set to play on both the Bushwillow and Firethorn courses over the first two rounds tomorrow and Friday before those surviving the cut are asked to play Firethorn only in rounds three and four. A total of R17.5million is at stake this week, and Oosthuizen is certainly the bookies’ favourite.
The Open champion from St Andrew’s in 2010 won by a whopping six strokes on a total of 18-under par at the same venue last year - France’s Romain Langasque was runner-up - and he goes into the fourth event of the current European Tour schedule in good form.
Following last year’s triumph at Randpark, Oosthuizen picked up two top-five finishes in the lucrative World Golf Championship events, plus four additional top-fives, which moved him back into the top-20 in the world rankings.
In his most recent start, at the Australian Open in early December, Oosthuizen finished runner-up on 14-under par to hometown hero Matt Jones, who won on 15-under par, by one stroke.
And then at the Presidents Cup, where the Internationals were captained by Ernie Els and gave the Tiger Woods’ US team a good run for their money, Oosthuizen earned 2.5 points for his team after producing some scintillating golf.
Oosthuizen was a popular winner last year, bagging his first SA Open title - and he’ll have only fond memories of the event. His good friend Charl Schwartzel though, now fully fit again after spending most of last year on the sidelines, will push him all the way, as will a few other South Africans.
Zander Lombard, who enjoyed a number of strong outings on the European Tour last year, will be going all out to get his breakthrough win, while former champion Brandon Stone also showed good form again in the latter stages of last year.
Erik van Rooyen - impressive in so many respects on the European Tour last season - will be keen to add his country’s Open to the only European Tour title he was won - the Scandinavian Invitation in August last year. He beat England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick by a stroke for his first big title.
Branden Grace is also chasing his first SA Open title, as are Hayden Porteous, Justin Harding, George Coetzee and Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who could be a surprise package this week following an impressive outing on the full European Tour last year.@jacq_west