Johannesburg - Paired with Tiger Woods in the opening two rounds, Louis Oosthuizen will once more lead the South African challenge at The Masters starting at Augusta on Thursday.
Oosthuizen had an incredible 2021 in the majors, as he finished second at the PGA Championship and the US Open as well as a third place in The Open Championship.
In fact, Oosthuizen now has six runner-up finishes in the majors to go with his seven-stroke win in The Open back in 2010.
At age 39, time is not on Oosthuizen’s side - but if his performances last year are anything to go by - the world number 14 is in the best form of his career in the big events.
Oosthuizen also has a second place at The Masters - back in 2012 when he lost in a playoff to American Bubba Watson.
However, being paired with Woods may not exactly be a good thing for Oosthuizen.
The massive gallery will be following the group almost solely to get a glimpse of Woods, and will offer little but polite applause for any good shots Oosthuizen hits. The crowd assembled will also scurry to get into good positions to watch Woods hit his shots, and could also disrupt Oosthuizen’s regular pace of play.
At the 2018 Open Championship, fellow South African Shaun Norris said playing with Tiger Woods is like playing with a mythical creature. If Oosthuizen can overcome the ‘Tiger factor’ there’s every hope he will contend this week.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout is the next best ranked SA player in the field at 63rd in the world. Bezuidenhout played in all four majors last year with a best finish of 30th at the PGA Championship. Now aged 27, Bezuidenhout will be playing his third Masters after finishing tied 38th and tied 40th in 2020 and 2021.
With just one missed cut in the nine events he played in 2022, Bezuidenhout is in decent form and a good bet to finish inside the top-20.
Another SA player who could be expected to do well this week is Erik van Rooyen. The 32-year-old will take confidence from his 13th place finish at The Players Championship last month.
Van Rooyen was due to make his debut in the 2020 Masters but was forced to withdraw due to injury. Instead, he will now be making his debut in the event two years later - as a much more experienced player.
Like Bezuidenhout, it will not be a surprise for SA fans to see Van Rooyen finish inside the top-20.
Another player making his debut, will be 22-year-old Garrick Higgo. The left-hander has already won on the PGA Tour at The Palmetto Championship in June last year. While he played in three of the four majors last year, he missed two cuts and managed a best finish of 64th in the PGA Championship.
The youngster will be keen to improve on those results, as he has already won three times on the DP World Tour. First, he will need to make the weekend at Augusta and from there he will hope to soak up as much experience as possible.
The fifth and final SA player in the field is 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel. For the 37-year-old, making the cut will be a big achievement.
The former world number six is now ranked 172nd and has missed his last six cuts in a row on the PGA Tour. With no form to speak of, Schwartzel will hope nostalgia and a yearning to reclaim his place in the upper echelons of the golf world will propel him to some good scores which have eluded him of late.