Johannesburg – Beating South African golfers on home soil is becoming increasingly difficult, Danish golfer Thomas Bjorn said on Wednesday.
“It's always a tough competition against the South Africans. All of us know what the South African boys are capable of,” Bjorn said of the strong local contingent in next week's European Tour event.
“Louis (Oosthuizen) and Charl (Schwartzel) are particularly tough to beat in South Africa.”
Bjorn was finishing up preparations for the upcoming Joburg Open, to take place from February 6 to 9 at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club, and the Africa Open at the East London Golf Club which follows a week later, from February 13 to 16.
He recently enjoyed success in South Africa when he won the Nedbank Golf Challenge, beating Sergio Garcia of Spain to lift the trophy, while Schwartzel was the best-placed South African, finishing sixth overall.
The last four Joburg Opens have been won by South Africans, while the Africa Open, since its launch in 2008, has never been won by a foreigner.
In the combined 13-year history of two of the newest European Tour and Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned tournaments in South Africa, there have only been two occasions when foreigners have won.
European star Matteo Manaserro, already a four-time winner on the European Tour at the age of 20, echoed Bjorn's sentiments.
“South African players always start as favourites in their country. I don't know if it's because they really perform at their best in their country, or because of the courses or the grass or something. But they seem to always do well, and some of them are always in contention,” Manaserro said.
“They are strong players.”
One foreigner who has taken a liking to competing against the South Africans is American Peter Uihlein.
Uihlein won the 2013 Sunshine Tour Rookie of the Year Award, and has a very simple take on his love for South Africa and his success in the past.
“It's hot. I like being in the heat. It's a lot like Florida. The food's great, the people are fantastic,” Uihlein said.
“I feel very comfortable here.” – Sapa