With the 2012 Major season now complete, South African golf is basking in yet another successful year at the highest level for the countryÂs leading professionals.
Ernie ElsÂs triumph in the Open Championship maintained the record of a South African winning at least one Major for the past three years. It also means that South African golfers have won a Major in five of the last nine years.
But itÂs ElsÂs victory at Royal Lytham & St Annes that will most certainly provide some hope for his contemporary Retief Goosen that a third Major is within his grasp.
GoosenÂs last Major win was in the 2004 US Open. His status in the global game is well recognised, and in South Africa heÂs been inducted into the South African Golf Hall of Fame, and his career is currently the theme for the six-tournament Vodacom Origins of Golf series on the Sunshine Tour. The fourth tournament on this series will be played at Selborne Hotel, Spa and Golf Estate this week.
But the 43-year-old Goosen still believes his best days are ahead of him. ÂKenny Perry played some of his best golf from the ages of 45 to 47,Â said Goosen, who would be the first to admit that the 2012 Majors didnÂt go according to plan for him.
His best finish was tied 10th in the US Open, while he did not play in the Masters for the first time since 1999 when he failed to qualify. HeÂs also dropped to 67th in the world.
But itÂs a wonder that heÂs been able to remain somewhat competitive at all as heÂs battled through the pain of a back injury that has plagued him since the middle of last year.
ÂIÂve had a bad time with my back. It got to a point where I was looking like going under the knife. IÂve been working with a physio and doing a lot of yoga to get two bulging disks in my lower back under control,Â said Goosen. The injury has affected everything from his distance on the course, to practising effectively and sleeping well.
But GoosenÂs career remains a shining example for many of the young professionals on the Sunshine Tour, and this weekÂs Vodacom Origins tournament at Selborne in KwaZulu-Natal could provide the same spark it did for Goosen. Goosen won his first professional tournament in KwaZulu-Natal, in the 1991 Newcastle Classic.