The European Tour remains in South Africa this week for the South African Open Championship at Pearl Valley Golf Estates. Richard Sterne defends a title he claimed last year in a playoff against Northern Ireland’s Gareth Maybin.
Since it was first played in 1903, the South African Open Championship has seen just nine foreign winners and, when Richard Sterne edged Gareth Maybin in a playoff to win the 2008 competition, he became the eighth consecutive home winner of the event.
The great South African players 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.
A strong international field will assemble at Pearl Valley this week and players like Anders Hansen, Soren Hansen and Edoardo Molinari will be intent to put an end to recent South African domination of the tournament.
A Jack Nicklaus design, the course at Pearl Valley only opened for play in 2004. This will be the third South African Open Championship to be hosted here.
Venue: Pearl Valley Golf Estate, Western Cape, South Africa
Date: Dec 17-20
Course stats: par 72, 7,309 yards
Purse: €1,000,000 Winner: €158,500
Defending Champion: Richard Sterne (-14)
Thursday 10 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 8.30am
Friday 11 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 8.30am
Saturday 12 – Live on Sky Sports Xtra from 10.30am
Sunday 13 – Live on Sky Sports Xtra from 10.30am
Gareth Maybin – Beaten in a playoff here last year, Maybin had a good tournament at the Alfred Dunhill Championship last week. He possesses a great rhythm and a cool temperament.
Richard Sterne – The defending champion showed good form last week and will surely contend again on a course he clearly enjoys.
Edoardo Molinari – The Italian has had an incredible 2009 with three wins on the Challenge Tour then victory (with his brother) at the World Cup. A European Tour win would be the perfect way to cap things off.
Key hole: 13th. A par five of 581 yards, a creek comes into play three times en-route to the green – It’s a great strategic test.
Skills required: Strong hitting. At 7,309 yards with four par fives, the man with the ability to hit a long ball has a distinct advantage here.