Oosthuizen eyes up Harry Vardon Trophy

dIt’s been over a decade since a South African golfer won The European Tour’s Harry Vardon Trophy for topping The Race to Dubai, and Louis Oosthuizen is in a good position to break that drought.

The 2010 Open champion and the 2015 runner-up showed he’s back to his sublime best with a stellar performance at St Andrews last month, eventually losing out to Zach Johnson in a nail-biting play-off, and he’s one of the early favourites ahead of this week’s World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.

At one point, world number one Rory McIlroy was a runaway leader of the European Tour listings, but Oosthuizen and 2014 Nedbank Golf Challenge winner Danny Willett have closed the gap on the Northern Irishman, and are the two players most likely to overtake him – especially as McIlroy seems certain to have to undergo a lengthy period of rehabilitation.

Since 2009 the Harry Vardon Trophy has been awarded to the winner of the Race to Dubai. Before then it was awarded to the winner of the ‘Order of Merit’. From 1975 to 2008 the Order of Merit was based on prize money but before that date a points system was used. From 1937 until the formation of the European Tour in 1972 the award was presented by the British PGA. The trophy is named for the Jersey golfing great Harry Vardon, who died in 1937.

Bobby Locke was the first South African to win it, a feat he achieved three times – in 1946, 1950 and 1954.

Gary Player missed out in 1971, when Peter Oosterhuis won it for the first of four consecutive times. Player was the leading money winner with £11,281 but of that, £8,500 came from winning the 1971 Piccadilly World Match Play Championship.

Dale Hayes took it in 1975, four years after he won the Spanish Open to become the youngest player to win on the European Tour, and a year before Seve Ballesteros took it for the first of his six wins.

Then, the trophy was won by South Africans for four consecutive years as first Retief Goosen in 2001 and 2002, and then Ernie Els in 2003 and 2004 took it ahead of Colin Montgomerie’s record eighth time in 2005.

McIlroy has won it twice, but he sits on 2,875,645 points from eight events, while Oosthuizen is on 2,454,469 in third, just 93,970 points behind Willett who is in second. They, in turn, are well clear of Bernd Wiesberger and Branden Grace in fourth and fifth.

So a decent showing by Oosthuizen this week in Akron, Ohio – and a finish with some daylight between himself and Willett – could see him move to the top of the Race to Dubai rankings, and in a good spot to become the fifth South African to win the Harry Vardon Trophy.

 

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