King Louis Oosthuizen leads charge for SA’s magnificent 7 at the Masters
JOHANNESBURG - As the year’s final golf Major begins with the Masters at Augusta on Thursday, Louis Oosthuizen will once again lead a strong South African challenge.
Seven South Africans will be striding down the immaculate fairways at Augusta, with Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Dylan Frittelli, Justin Harding, Trevor Immelman, Charl Schwartzel and Erik van Rooyen all joining Oosthuizen in the quest for the green jacket.
Normally held in April, The Masters was moved back seven months due to the novel coronavirus pandemic and will for the first time be held without any spectators.
Once again it will be the 2010 Open champion Oosthuizen who will be the favourite among the SA players.
Oosthuizen produced his best finish in a major in three years as he ended third at the US Open in September, and at number 19 in the world rankings is the top SA player in the field. Since the US Open, the 38-year-old has one top-50 and one top-20 finish on the PGA Tour.
However, with little form outside of his US Open performance - Oosthuizen can never be written off. To go with his one Major title, he also has runner-up finishes in all four of the ‘Big Four’ events.
Harding may just have the next best chance among the SA players. The European Tour event winner made an incredibly impressive debut at the Masters last year - finishing 12th which also earned him an invite back to the tournament in 2020. The 34-year-old has two top-40 finishes in his last two events, and may just be shaping up for another top performance at The Masters.
Frittelli, a PGA Tour event winner, has struggled to find the same form which gained him his debut appearance at the Masters in 2018. The Masters is known to be notoriously difficult for first-timers, and the 30-year-old will be aiming for a stronger showing this week. He will also be buoyed by a tied-11th finish at the Zozo Championship last month on the PGA Tour.
Two in-form South Africans are Erik van Rooyen and Bezuidenhout - both ranked inside the top-60 in the world. However, the duo will be making their debuts at the event. Both boast European Tour wins.
For Van Rooyen, though, it will be his seventh start in a Major - and he already has a tied-eighth place finish at the PGA Championship in 2019 and therefore could be ready to become a contender at Augusta.
For Bezuidenhout, it will be his fourth Major appearance, after two missed cuts and a best finish of 55th in the US Open.
Bezuidenhout, 26, is definitely capable of springing a surprise on an American audience.
He happens to be the same age Schwartzel was when he stunned the field to win the 2011 Masters title.
Bezuidenhout, ranked 59th in the world, might also feel fate owes him one. The rising SA star carded an opening seven-under 65 to hold second place in the Players Championship on the PGA Tour in March, before the event was cancelled due to Covid-19.
South Africa also boast a couple of former Masters champions in the field this week in Immelman and Schwartzel.
Schwartzel is struggling for form at the moment, except for his third place at the PGA Tour’s 3M Open in July. The former world number six, though, will be hoping the memories of his Augusta triumph almost 10 years ago may be just the catalyst is game is seeking.
Immelman, the 2008 Masters champion, now aged-40 has a tied-23rd place finish in the European Tour’s Amundi de France last month which will boost his confidence. Making the weekend at Augusta, however, will likely be his aim for the player now ranked 1251st in the world.
African News Agency (ANA)