Open champion Louis Oosthuizen tamed the famed St Andrews links on the way to his most treasured victory and he hopes links-like conditions will help him in this weekÂs Africa Open.
The Â1-million tournament gets underway on Thursday, and it is the opening event in the 2011 Sunshine Tour season Â an event co-sanctioned by the European Tour and the third on its 2011 Race to Dubai.
Two days of Scottish weather Â mist and windy drizzle Â and East London Golf Club looked like a scene from a poor remake of Emily BronteÂs Wuthering Heights, but that didnÂt bother South AfricaÂs latest major winner.
ÂThe weatherÂs not looking great but at least itÂs not cold,Â he said. ÂAt least you can still get away without playing with a rain jacket or anything like that.Â
And while there is no Scottish heather around to remind Oosthuizen of his seven-stroke victory in the Open Championship, he likes the rough he sees on a golf course he last played in 2000 as an amateur.
ÂThe golf course looks great,Â he said. ÂThe rough is up; the greens are running beautifully and IÂm really looking forward to it. I see the forecast is for a bit of wind and I think itÂs going to be a tough one.Â
Last year, the rough was short in the midst of the Eastern Cape drought, and scoring was easy: The cut at five-under-par was the lowest of the European Tour season.
Oosthuizen knows it will be different this time. ÂIt is a good golf course, and you can even shoot low from not taking it on,Â he said. ÂThere are definitely quite a few birdies out there, but with the rough up and the greens running that nicely, I donÂt think itÂs going to be that low a cut.Â
Oosthuizen will be up against more than the weather and the course, however: Defending champion Charl Schwartzel, 2009 champion Retief Goosen, 2008 winner Shaun Norris, European Ryder Cup assistant captain Darren Clarke and four-time winner on the 2010 Sunshine Tour Jaco van Zyl are the leading names in the 156-man field.
In addition, there are 13 winners from last yearÂs Sunshine Tour in the field, including three players who won more than once: Jean Hugo won three times, and Adilson Da Silva and Michiel Bothma twice each.
In a nice coincidence, there are 13 winners from last yearÂs European Challenge Tour also in the field Â all, like the Sunshine Tour winners, looking to take the step into the brighter spotlight a victory in East London will bring.