'Back at it!' SA's golfers ready to rock in PGA Tour return
JOHANNESBURG - Golf is back and six South Africans will tee it up when the PGA Tour resumes in the United States from Thursday.
It is the first tour in the world to restart following the spread of the coronavirus and the suspension of all sport some three months ago.
Former Open champion, Louis Oosthuizen, Nedbank Golf Challenge winner Branden Grace, young hot shots, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Erik van Rooyen and Dylan Frittelli, as well as veteran tour pro, David Frost, will all be in action at this week’s Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas.
It is nearly 12 weeks since the Players Championship was halted after its first round at TPC Sawgrass and following opening rounds of 63 by Hideki Matsuyama and a sizzling bogey-free 65 by Bezuidenout in his debut at the event.
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Much has changed in the world since the game’s best teed it up at the Players and this week new “safety” rules will be in place that promote social distancing.
Bezuidenhout was the hot South African player on tour when Covid-19 hit and the Players was cancelled. He was in the form of his life, having won earlier on the European Tour for the first time, and was set to make his Masters debut in April, having climbed to number 47 in the world rankings. The 26-year-old, who got engaged to Kirsten Hart during lockdown, will hope to get back into that same form quickly as the tour resumes.
Oosthuizen will hope to have better luck post-lockdown in America because before the Players was called off he had to withdraw in the early stages of his first round because of a shoulder injury. And Grace, who came so close on a few occasions at some of the game’s Majors a few years ago, will also hope for better form after the long break.
Van Rooyen, who’s steadily climbed the rankings, showed off some of his guitar-playing skills during lockdown and tweeted this week, “Back at it!”
Frittelli, who not too long ago captured his first European Tour title, expressed his delight with a return to play, tweeting, “Training’s done, ready to roll.”
Frost (60), a veteran and nine-time winner on tour, got a special invite as a former champion at Colonial. He won the tournament in 1997 on a score of 15-under-par.
While Tiger Woods won’t be in action this week, it is a star-studded field that will be chasing the $7-million-plus purse.
World number one, Rory McIlroy, will be the big drawcard - if only for the television audience - but so, too, will Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas look to make a big impression on their return.
Also in action will be Patrick Reed, Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Xander Schauffele.