Charl Schwartzel was beaten by England’s Andy Sullivan in a playoff for the SA Open title in 2015. Photo: Chris O’Meara/AP

JOHANNESBURG – There will be no Rory McIlroy in 2018, but South African golfing fans will be able to cheer on their very own as the majority of this country’s elite golfers will tee it up at the 107th BMW SA Open in early January.

McIlroy was the big drawcard earlier this year and he didn’t disappoint, losing in the end after a thrilling playoff to Graeme Storm.

But from January 11 to 14, South Africans can look forward to watching the likes of Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace, Brandon Stone, George Coetzee, Hayden Porteous, Dean Burmester, Darren Fichardt and Dylan Frittelli in action at Glendower.

They really are the who’s-who of South African golf.

The co-sanctioned event with the European Tour boasts a total prize fund of R15 million and according to Els, who is the host of the tournament, the response by the local players to play at the tournament is hugely encouraging.

“The 2017 South African Open was highlighted by the fact that we had one of the world’s best players, Rory McIlroy, in the field. The 2018 tournament will be highlighted by some of our best local professionals, making sure that this title comes back to South Africa,” said the five-time winner of the tournament.

Goosen has twice won his national Open – the second oldest in the world, by the way – while Stone returns as the last South African to have won the championship in 2016.

And Schwartzel has as much incentive as the rest of his fellow South Africans to add this title to his list of global victories, including winning the Masters a few years ago, having been beaten by England’s Andy Sullivan in a playoff in 2015.

“The South African Open has a rich history on our tour and has been the foundation upon which many of our country’s leading professionals have built their illustrious careers,” said Sunshine Tour executive director Selwyn Nathan when the tournament was launched at Glendower on Monday afternoon.

“This has been a title that our South African golfers have always defended with great pride, and we look forward to one of our home-grown stars adding their name to its incredible history.” 

It is expected that several stars of the European Tour will join the big contingent of local golfers when the tournament tees off in the new year.

It is not yet known if defending champion Storm will return to defend the title he won so spectacularly in mid-January.

 

IOL Sport