JOHANNESBURG - The Springboks as reigning Rugby World Cup champions may lay claim to the most successful sporting code in South Africa, but in fact it is the professional golfers who consistently produce the best performances on the global stage each week.
Following his victory in the Gran Canaria Open on Sunday, Garrick Higgo made it nine South Africans in the top-100 in the world golf rankings.
The left-handed 21-year-old won for the second time in his 24 events on the European Tour, which is also the fewest number of events needed by a South African to reach this mark. The previous fastest was Tim Clark.
Higgo’s triumph is another exclamation mark on the conveyor belt of talent South Africa produces every year. With his win, Higgo moved up 45 spots to a career-high 65th. Having turned professional in 2019, the former GolfRSA star ended that year ranked 464th in the world. By the end of 2020, Higgo had reached 90th after winning his first European Tour event at the Open de Portugal.
Higgo, however, is not the only youngster soaring in the world rankings. Christiaan Bezuidenhout at 26, is the second highest-ranked SA player in the world at number 40. Bezuidenhout is already a three-time winner on the European Tour and reached a career-high 33rd in the world earlier this year.
While Louis Oosthuizen at 38-years-old, still the top-ranked SA player at 33rd in the world, is the oldest of the nine SA players in the top-100. Still in his peak golfing years, and with an Open Championship Claret Jug in his trophy cabinet - he remains the favourite of the SA players to win the next major for the nation.
Erik van Rooyen is the SA number four at 69th in the world. Though somewhat older than some of the other SA players in the upper echelons of the world rankings, at 31 he is just approaching his peak golfing years. He has already produced a top-10 in a major, with his eighth place finish at the 2019 PGA Championship. He has already played in seven majors, and that experience can only bode well for his promising future in the game.
"I think my success is a combination of the Sunshine Tour back home and then the Challenge Tour."-@garrick_higgo on winning the Gran Canaria Lopesan Open.🏌️♂️🏆![CDATA]>🇿![CDATA]>🇦@Challenge_Tour #SunshineTour #GreatnessBeginsHere #GarrickHiggo #ChallengeTour pic.twitter.com/vT9AFi0s4S— Sunshine Tour (@Sunshine_Tour) April 26, 2021
There are three SA players ranked in the 70s, with Daniel van Tonder (72nd), Dylan Frittelli (73rd) and Brandon Stone (76th) all close to breaking into the top-50.
Stone, at 28-years-old, returned to the winners circle over the weekend with victory at the Limpopo Championship - the co-sanctioned European Challenge Tour and Sunshine Tour event. The biggest victory of his young career came at The Scottish Open in 2018, when he closed with an incredible final round 10-under 60 to win by four. Performances like that suggest there will be many more top results on the highest stage.
At 88th in the world, Branden Grace is some way off his career high 10th in the world. The 32-year-old, however, is tipped as a future major winner as he already has top-six finishes in three of the four majors. To his credit, Grace is already a nine-time winner on the European Tour and certainly will be hunting more titles in the future.
George Coetzee is the ninth SA player in the top-100 at 96th, and is also some way off his career high 41st in the world. The 34-year-old has won five times on the European Tour and 11 times on the Sunshine Tour. After falling to 289th in the world in 2019, Coetzee is definitely on his way back up, and can be expected to be in contention at some of the world’s top events over the next decade.
It’s clear to see then, that there is no predicting the potential of the best nine SA players right now - and if some of them do not live up to their high billing - there are many more waiting to take up the mantle of promising South African talent.
African News Agency (ANA)