The European Tour remains in South Africa this week for the South African Open Championship at Serengeti Golf Club in Ekurhuleni. Ernie Els defends the title, he edged out his countryman Retief Goosen by a single shot last time out.
It’s the second time the South African Open has appeared on the 2011 European Tour schedule. The 2010 tournament, contested last December and won by Ernie Els, was the second event counting towards the 2011 Race to Dubai.
This is one of the oldest events to feature on the European Tour. The first South African Open was contested as an exhibition tournament in 1893 and last year was the 100th staging of the competition.
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.
Last year’s tournament at Durban Country Club was a thriller, with the four top-ranked South Africans claiming the top four positions. Ernie Els took the victory by just one shot from Retief Goosen, with Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel in third and fourth places.
Oosthuizen and Schwartzel aren’t on the start sheet this time out as they’re doing battle for the Omega Mission Hills World Cup in China. Both Els and Goosen will be competing, however, together with a strong contingent of home players, including last week’s winner of the Alfred Dunhill Championship – Garth Mulroy.
Opened for play in 2009, the Serengeti Golf Club is a Jack Nicklaus design laid out attractively across the grassland. Water is a feature on a number of holes, particularly on the run for home.
Venue: Serengeti Golf Club, Ekurhuleni, South Africa
Date: Nov 24-27
Course stats: par 72, 7,760 yards
Purse: €1,000,000 Winner: €158,500
Defending Champion: Ernie Els (-25)
Thursday 24 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 8.30am
Friday 25 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 8.30am
Saturday 26 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 10.30am
Sunday 27 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 10.30am
Simon Dyson – Enjoyed a great run a couple of months ago and showed decent form in the HSBC Champions. He’ll be looking to become the first English winner of this event since Tommy Horton in 1970.
George Coetzee – One of the in-form players on the European Tour, he’s had three top-10 finishes in his last four starts including third last week at Leopard Creek. He’s had a great season and all that’s missing is a victory – this could be the week.
Retief Goosen – The 2006 champion has had a relatively quiet year but has still racked up nearly €700,000 in prize money. He was second in last year’s event and he’d love to go one better this time out.
Key hole: 16th. A par 5 of over 600 yards that asks a couple of difficult strategic questions. For most players it will be three shots if the tee is back, but deciding where to lay up could be tricky. The fairway splits in two as it approaches the green – the left hand option provides the more appealing pitch into the green but with water on three sides, it’s still a risky one.
Preview – Omega Mission Hills World Cup