Much of the talk ahead of this week’s 104th South African Open at Ekurhuleni’s Glendower Golf Club has centred on the rough, which has been thickened appreciably since last year. Already tales of woe have emerged from the players during the practice rounds and pro-am, albeit largely good humoured.
“I played nicely during my practice round on Monday, other than a lost ball at the second hole,” commented Ryan Strauss, who will be in the field this week. “The premium is definitely on keeping it straight this week, because parts of the rough here are brutal.
“I was only five or 10 metres on the right of the second fairway, but I couldn’t even find my feet in there, let alone my ball!” he added with a laugh.
Some other rumblings from the players have contained a tinge of bitterness, but general consensus is that the course is in sublime condition, and will ultimately provide a stern test to the field of 156 who are gunning for one of the oldest trophies in golf.
“We’ve had a lot of rain in Joburg, as you can see from the length of the rough here,” smiled Thomas Aiken, who sits third on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit. “It’s definitely going to make things a little bit interesting! But overall I think the course is in unbelievable condition. The greens are as pure as can be, and the fairways are in superb nick; albeit extremely narrow.
“I think if you get into double digits, you’re playing really good golf,” he continued. “Weather dependent, I think anything in double digits has got a good chance of winning. But all in all, it’s going to be a great SA Open.”
One thing offering the players some refuge is the length of the Ekurhuleni course, or perhaps lack thereof. It measures 6,914 metres, which, at altitude, will likely allow players the occasional luxury of taking fairway metals and/or irons off the tee to ensure accuracy.
It was a point picked up on by Charl Schwartzel, who, in the build-up to the week, observed that the course could have been lengthened. However, the 2011 Masters champion spoke enthusiastically about the layout in general, and feels that a tournament of this nature warrants difficult scoring conditions.
“It’s great to be back at Glendower, and I think the golf course is set up even better than last year,” Schwartzel beamed. “In my eyes they could make it longer though. I think it should be the toughest tournament of the whole year and it shouldn’t be easy. But I like the rough – it’s up. That gives a guy playing well an advantage. Last year with the rough down it was a bit of a free-for-all.
“This year, the rough is long. The back nine seems worse than the front. It’s penalising. If you hit it in there next to the green then you’ll be trying to just chip it on the green, let alone close. If you miss a fairway, then you’ll have to chop it out and play from there.
“I think the South African Open should be like that,” he concluded.