CAPE TOWN – Will a South African be donning a coveted Green Jacket at Augusta on Sunday evening as the Masters champion? Well, it’s time to be positive.
There are six in the 87-man line-up and here’s a closer look at each player’s chances:
Louis Oosthuizen (world ranking No 20)
That final round over Randpark’s Firethorn course in the SA Open in December is still vivid in the memory - driving the green at the par-4 ninth and then hitting drive-wedge to “give” distance at the par-5 14th for an eagle en route to victory by six.
This was King Louis at his best. He also contended in the Nedbank Challenge late last year before finishing third.
Just two weeks back he reached the quarter-finals of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play (giving Tommy Fleetwood a hiding in the round robin stage) and is second in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai which is a reflection of just how well he is playing.
And, of course, he has a pretty special Masters profile - that albatross two at the second hole in 2012 when he ultimately lost in a play-off to Bubba Watson, and an ace at the 16th in 2016. Oosthuizen has a rare “Grand Slam” of runner-up finishes in all four Majors and his SA Open victory was his 14th worldwide win.
Apparently, he’s also worked extra hard preparing for this week so go Louis!
Branden Grace (world No 43)
He hasn’t been at his best for some time, although one could have been mistaken for thinking this in the aforementioned Match Play.
In his four-man group he won all three of his games, in one of these upending top seed and world No 1 Dustin Johnson.
Grace clearly has the potential to win at the highest level and - golf being unpredictable at times - he may just reproduce that “Amazing Grace” quality again this week on Augusta’s pristine turf.
One bookmaker has him at 125/1. Seems like a pretty good bet.
Charl Schwartzel (world No 102)
He may have dropped in the rankings but he did, after all, win the 2011 Masters - famously making birdies at the final four holes to edge out Adam Scott and Jason Day.
He does get down on himself when things aren’t going his way but there’s no doubt he can contend if the swing and the mind are right.
Justin Harding (world No 48)
In 2018 he rose no less than 627 places in the rankings after a season which included four victories, two each on the Sunshine and Asian Tours.
Then came his maiden European Tour victory at this year’s Qatar Masters.
He swings fast, plays fast, talks fast and finishes fast as was the case in Qatar when he made five birdies in his last nine holes, including on 17 and 18.
A confident player third in the Race to Dubai and unlikely to be intimidated by his first Augusta visit.
Trevor Immelman (world No 456)
Not the same player who won the 2008 Masters, the 2007 Nedbank and two SA Opens. Dare we say it - he’s just making up the numbers.
Jovan Rebula (world No 1421)
Winning the British Amateur was no small feat and his smooth, rhythmical swing is eerily similar to “Oom” Ernie’s.
He’ll be happy to make the cut this week with plenty of advice from the Big Easy.