Els and Goosen prepare to do battle

Retief Goosen and Ernie Els will resume their battle for supremacy in the SA Open Championship this week as the €1million event heads to Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate.

The South African pair have a history of titanic duels in the contest, with Goosen taking the title twice – once since it became part of The European Tour International Schedule in 1997 – and his fellow Major Champion Els winning three times, the last of which was 12 months ago at Durban Country Club.

Goosen held off Els for both his victories, in 1995 and 2006, birdieing the last two holes – including a chip-in on the 17th – to win the latter, while Els triumphed last year despite Goosen birdieing four of the last five in a stirring comeback.

“The South African Open has always been one of my favourite tournaments and I’m delighted to be coming back,” said Goosen.

“When I won in 1995, I was 26 and it was one of the proudest moments of my career. There is something indescribable about winning your national Open. That second win was just as sweet. It felt great winning again on home soil and having the SA Open trophy in my hands again.

“Ernie and I have had an interesting rivalry in the South African Open over the years. It’s something I’m particularly proud of, that we can produce our best golf against each other in our national Open.

“It is important for the South African fans as well as the tournament, which is one of the oldest in world golf and one which we as South African professionals are very proud of.”

While the country’s current leading lights, Major winners Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, represent South Africa in the Omega Mission Hills World Cup in China, a host of other home hopes will be eyeing victory, including George Coetzee, Thomas Aiken and Garth Mulroy, who won the Alfred Dunhill Championship on Sunday, becoming the 100th South African winner in European Tour history.

Simon Dyson, who has already won twice this season, will be looking to become the first English champion since Tommy Horton in 1970, while for a number of players it is the penultimate chance of the season to secure their card for the 2012 campaign.

Welshman Stephen Dodd (122nd), England’s John Parry (126th) and Nick Dougherty (281st), Denmark’s Jeppe Huldahl (157th) and Swede Oskar Henningsson (175th) are all European Tour champions but are facing a trip to the Qualifying School next month unless they can find some form in the Serengeti.

It is the first time the SA Open Championship has visited Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate, and the rugged Masai Mara, which is designed by Jack Nicklaus and opened in 2009, will provide a stern test in stunning surroundings.

Article: European Tour

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