Tait: Euro Tour goes south for winners
Monday, February 20, 2012
Is Jbe Kruger’s Avantha Masters victory one more omen pointing to another banner year for South African golfers?
Looks that way.
Kruger is the fourth South African win in just seven events on this year’s European Tour. He follows in the footsteps of Louis Oosthuizen (Africa Open) and Branden Grace (Joburg Open and Volvo Golf Champions). It gets better: South Africa lays claim to six of the last 10 European Tour titles. Garth Mulroy and Hennie Otto closed out last season with victories in the Alfred Dunhill and SA Open Championships.
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Should we be surprised? No. South African golf is on the rise. Louis Oosthuizen set the tone with victory in the 2010 Open Championship. Charl Schwartzel followed by winning last year’s Masters, with birdies on the last four holes.
Take a look at the current European Tour money list and you’ll find plenty of omens pointing to more South African success this year. Four South Africans – Grace, Kruger, Retief Goosen and Oosthuizen – are in the top 10. There are seven in the top 20, 12 in the top 50 and 16 in the top 100.
Don’t think Oosthuizen and Schwartzel’s success hasn’t played a part in spurring the likes of Grace and Kruger on to victory. Every country needs role models and these two major winners are the latest to follow in a long line of South African greats.
Bobby Locke started the ball rolling back in the 1940s and 50s by winning the Open Championship four times. Gary Player inspired generations of golfers with his major exploits, winning nine, including a career Grand Slam, during a career that spanned nearly six decades.
Ernie Els and Goosen have also done their bits in recent history. With five majors between them, they helped inspire Trevor Immelman to victory in the 2008 Masters, and Oosthuizen and Schwartzel to their major wins.
Els has gone beyond just inspiring young countrymen. The Ernie Els Foundation has helped many young South Africans get a start in the game. Indeed, Grace credited Els after winning twice earlier this year. Grace would not be where he is today if not for Els’ largesse.
So what chance a third straight year in which a South African carries off one of the tournaments that really count? Pretty high.
Schwartzel won’t stop at one major. He’s too talented not to win several. As for Oosthuizen, with that swing he should be in contention every time he tees it up in one of the four marquee tournaments.
And behind this current crop will come many more, too. Els’ Foundation has joined forces with the Fancourt Foundation to help talented young South Africans excel in the game.
In other words, expect more South African major winners in upcoming seasons, maybe starting this year.