Ernie and Retief ready for Serengeti

Ernie Els and Retief Goosen are relishing the prospect of another battle between the two of them in this year’s South African Open, which tees off at the Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate on Thursday.

The two South Africans lead a field including rising South African stars such as George Coetzee, Jaco van Zyl, Jbe Kruger and Thomas Aiken, with the foreign challenge led by England’s Simon Dyson.

But even though Els refers to himself as “an old warhorse”, both he and Goosen have made for some memorable SA Open duels.

Goosen has beaten Els for both of his SA Open titles in 1995 and 2005. But Els, hunting his sixth SA Open this week, had the last say when he won last year’s 100th playing of this championship, beating Goosen in a dramatic final round.

“Retief and I have had a few good duels in the SA Open. In 1995 he beat me convincingly at Randpark. Then at The Links at Fancourt in 2005 he chipped in on the 17th hole on his way to winning, and I won’t forget that one for a while.

Last year he made a real charge over the last couple of holes, but thankfully I had a nice lead coming into those last holes. We’re getting on a little bit now and we’re the old warhorses here. But if it’s a good show between me and Retief, I wouldn’t mind finishing second.”

Goosen is feeling confident at a time when his back, which he has struggled with this year, is the best it’s been in the last few months. “I took two months off about three months ago and had a lot of rehab and work done. The last month it’s been the best it has all year. I’ve hit more balls on the range the last month than I have all year. I won’t say my game’s 100%, but it’s been a lot better than it has the last seven or eight months.”

And Goosen hopes the course will serve up a challenge worthy of this historic championship.

“I would like to see this course play tough. It is the SA Open after all, and you like it to be the toughest test. But the way it’s playing now, with the soft greens, we’ll probably see some low scores out there.

“I would like to see a score close to par, but I don’t think it will happen. I think 15 under could win this.”

Dyson is certainly hoping he reaches that mark as he attempts to become only the eighth foreign winner in the 101st playing of this championship.

The Englishman comes into this week on the back of a highly successful year featuring two wins and a further six top-tens.

“I’d definitely like to win this one,” he said. “You see the past champions, and some of the best golfers in the world have won this tournament. South African golfers are fantastic in their own back yard, and it’s no surprise that they do so well in their home tournaments. It will be tough trying to take this one away from them.”

Article: Michael Vlismas

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