Johannesburg - Tim Clark remains the only South African to have won the Players Championship with his victory 12 years ago, but this year six Rainbow Nation players will be gunning for glory, and a first prize of R54.6m, at the TPC at Sawgrass on Thursday.
Clark was a surprise winner in 2010, in what was his first victory on the PGA Tour. In contrast, all six SA players in the field this week have won before on the PGA Tour.
Louis Oosthuizen will be seen as the favourite among the SA players. The 39-year-old has nine top-fives in majors (seven of those since 2015), and with the Players Championship viewed as the unofficial fifth major he can always be seen as a big contender.
Despite Oosthuizen’s nine victories on the DP World Tour (DPWT) (European Tour), he has never won on US soil - with his 2010 Open Championship victory his only PGA Tour victory.
As the top-ranked SA player on the globe at 13th in the world rankings, he has made a quiet start to his 2022 season. Oosthuizen has played just two events on the PGA Tour this season, with two top-30 finishes to his name. However, Oosthuizen has become known for saving his top performances for the big events which his two runner-up finishes and a third place in the majors last year indicate.
Dylan Frittelli, meanwhile, will be making his eighth start on the PGA Tour of the 2022 season. Though he has missed three cuts in the seven events he’s played, the 31-year-old has been rounding into form in his last three events with a best finish of a tie for 16th at The Honda Classic two weeks ago. The two-time DPWT winner has also won on the PGA Tour, at the John Deere Classic in 2019.
Erik van Rooyen is another SA player who is already well into his 2022 season, having already played six events.
Van Rooyen though, has spread his time between the US and the DPWT as he made the trip over the pond to the United Arab Emirates in January. There Van Rooyen notched up a 12th place finish and a tie for fourth - which remain his best results this year. Though he missed the cut at last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, he is more than capable of being in the mix come the final nine on Sunday.
Former world number-10 Branden Grace’s form is slightly more concerning. Grace has missed three cuts in the five events he has played, with a best finish of 33rd. Currently ranked 93rd in the world, the nine-time DPWT winner will be looking for a spark to ignite his game, and The Players Championship could just be the perfect platform.
The youngest SA player in the field is Garrick Higgo at 22-years-old. Though he won in just his second event on the PGA Tour, last year at The Palmetto Championship, his best finish in the US since then has been a tie for 21st. Higgo may not be favoured to contend at The Players, but even a top-10 would do his confidence a world of good.
Charl Schwartzel completes the SA contingent in the field. The 2011 Masters champion has four missed cuts in his six events in 2022, and is yet to make the weekend this season on the PGA Tour. The former world number six is now ranked 154th, and making it to the weekend at the marquee event might just be his main goal.