The European Tour remains in South Africa this week for the South African Open Championship at Durban Country Club. Scotland’s Richie Ramsay defends the title.
This is the 100th staging of the South African Open Championship It was first held as an exhibition tournament in 1893 and, since then only seven players from outside Africa have lifted the trophy.
The great South African golfers of the last 75 years have made this tournament their own. Bobby Locke won nine times between 1935 and 1955 before Gary Player took over, winning 13 times from 1956 to 1981. Other South African Major winners – Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Trevor Immelman have all lifted the trophy.
Goosen and Els are in the field this week and they’ll be joined by another South African Major winner – Louis Oosthuizen. He’s keen to join Els, Locke and Player as winners of both the Open Championship and the South African Open.
“It’s the one that every South African player wants to win,” he said.
Last year, Scotland’s Richie Ramsay stormed up the leaderboard at Pearl Valley Golf Estates with a final round of 65. It was sufficient to tie Shiv Kapur at 13-under-par. The pair went to a sudden-death playoff that Ramsay won with a birdie at the first extra hole.
Durban Country Club, venue for this year’s tournament, is a historic layout dating from the 1920s. Over naturally undulating ground through the bush and dunes, it’s played host to this event on 16 occasions.
Venue: Durban Country Club, South Africa
Date: Dec 16-19
Course stats: par 72, 6,732 yards
Purse: €1,000,000 Winner: €158,000
Defending Champion: Richie Ramsay (-13)
Thursday 16 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 8.30am
Friday 17 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 8.30am
Saturday 18 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 10.30am
Sunday 19 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 10.30am
Tim Clark – Twice a winner of this event and once before at Durban Country Club, Clark is a consistent performer who should go well here this week. He finished second in the recent Nedbank Golf Challenge so is clearly on solid form.
Retief Goosen – Also a past winner of his home Open, Goosen was tied for third at the Nedbank and is showing signs of recapturing his best form. He’s back up to 17th on the Official World Golf Ranking.
Charl Schwartzel – Tied for second at last week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship, Schwartzel has the ability to blow a field to pieces if he can find top gear and stay there.
Key hole: 3rd. A 512-yard par 5, this stunning hole requires players to hit their tee shot from the highest point on the course, overlooking the Indian Ocean, into a valley below. The drive must avoid the trees on the right but also miss the large fairway bunker that sits in the landing area on the left. Large trees protect the green’s left portion and will also punish any shot hit too long.
Skills required: Accuracy. By professional standards this is not a long course at just over 6,700 yards but the narrowness of many fairways means driver is not always the sensible play. Look for players to hit irons and utility clubs to be sure of finding the hugely undulating fairways.