17th July 2017 | Sunshine Tour
Birkdale looms for Els and co.
Two-time Open Championship winner Ernie Else will be part of a nine-man South African contingent into this week’s Open Championship at Royal Birkdale in a quest to crown a third major championship winner of 2017.
He might not winning tournaments every other week, but Els has a wealth of experience when it comes to the challenges of facing an exceptionally strong field in one of the most exciting events of the season.
Apart from the legendary Gary Player and Bobby Locke, Els remains the only South African to have lifted the Claret Jug more than once – having won it in 2002 and 2012 – and will be an inspiration to young starlets Brandon Stone and Dylan Frittelli. While Stone and Fittelli have proven themselves worthy champions on the Sunshine Tour and European Tour, they still need to find their feet in major championship circles. Stone missed the cut last year and Frittelli is a debutant.
Darren Fichardt earned his spot thanks to his Joburg Open victory, while Jbe’ Kruger and Shaun Norris qualified through their efforts on the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour respectively. Kruger returns to The Open following a five-year absence and will want to perform better than his 2012 showing, where he missed the cut. Norris is another debutant who will look to learn more than anything else.
Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen will make up the South African contingent at this year’s event.
Other than Player, Locke and Els, Oosthuizen is the only other South African to have won The Open Championship when he won it back in 2010. He missed the cut last year but he was a runner-up to Zach Johnson in 2015. Victory will not come easily in England this week because in a field that boasts serial winners such as Jason Day, Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama, nobody is ever guaranteed an easy route.