Oosthuizen skips Hawaii for Africa Open

Louis Oosthuizen

Louis Oosthuizen

Africa Open

Jan. 6-9

Course: East London Golf Club (6,770 yards, par 73), East London, South Africa.

Purse: $1.3 million. Winner's share: $215,340.

Last year: South Africa's Charl Schwartzel beat countryman Thomas Aiken by a stroke.

Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen deserves a lot of credit for turning up this week at the €1 million Africa Open at East London Golf Club. He could have opted to follow compatriots Ernie Els and Tim Clark to Hawaii for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

FIVE TO WATCH

Louis Oosthuizen – What will he do for an encore in 2011 after his Open Championship victory? This tournament should give us a hint.

Retief Goosen – Hasn’t lived up to expectations since winning two U.S. Opens, but should contend in a pretty weak field.

Charl Schwartzel – No one will be surprised if he defends the title he won 12 months ago.

Darren Clarke – Showed a return to form last year after a dismal 2009. Can he continue that form in 2011?

Romain Wattel – Many expect the young Frenchman to win European rookie of the year this season. Should be interesting to see how he fares in the first event of the year.

Oosthuizen wants to spend more time at home before he starts traveling this season as a new member on the PGA Tour.

“I decided not to go and play the two tournaments in Hawaii because that won’t leave me with enough off time before the start of the new season,” said Oosthuizen, referring to the Hyundai event and the Sony Open.

“I’ve never played in the Africa Open so I’m really looking forward to it. The conditions are likely to be windy, which I like. I played the East London Golf Club course as an amateur. . . . I also remember it as being a fair test.”

Oosthuizen is part of a three-man headline act, along with Retief Goosen and defending champion Charl Schwartzel. They are the three highest-ranked players in the field at 21st, 14th and 34th, respectively, in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Goosen and Schwartzel may be the better bets to take the title because they have won the event the last two years. Goosen won in 2009 but did not compete last year. He is back at East London looking to start the 2011 season with a bang.

“Seeing as I missed last year, I’m coming back as a defending champion of sorts,” Goosen said.

Last year, Schwartzel shot a closing 6-under 67 to come from two back heading into the final round to beat countryman Thomas Aiken by a stroke.

At just 6,770 yards and playing to a par of 73, East London will not trouble even the shortest of hitters off the tee. Its defense lies in the wind gusts that whip across the course from the Indian Ocean. The layout is links in nature and weaves through dunes. However, unlike most links, many of the fairways are tree lined.

Designed by Colonel S.V. Hotchkin, creator of the eponymous, world-renowned Hotchkin course at Woodhall Spa, England, the course is quirky by nature and calls for good strategic play. 

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