Rock among SA Open international hopefuls

Robert Rock has been a regular visitor to this country and will fancy his chances of becoming the first Englishman to win the South African Open in 43 years when he tees it up at Glendower Golf Club from 21-24 November.


Foreign SA Open champions have been few and far between and there have been just 13 of them in the previous 102 editions of the tournament.


And it was Tommy Horton in 1970 at Royal Durban, who was the first overseas golfer to claim the title, and ended a five-year winning streak by Gary Player.


Horton just happens to be the one and only Englishman to succeed.


Rock has a top-class swing and announced himself on the world stage with a remarkable victory over Tiger Woods in Abu Dhabi last year. Since then, however, it has been a struggle for the 36-year-old, particularly with his short game.


But the golfer famous for his free-flowing hair and refusal to wear a cap has been a consistent performer in South Africa.


He has played in eight previous South African Opens and has finished in the top 10 on three occasions: tied-10th with three sub-70 rounds at Humewood in December 2006, meeting the challenge of a tough Pearl Valley layout in December 2007 and finishing tied-seventh, and shooting two 69s and two 64s to finish in a tie for fifth at Durban Country Club in 2010.


Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey is another foreigner expected to mount a challenge at Glendower, having won the Russian Open in July for his fifth European Tour victory.


A winner on tour for three consecutive seasons, Hoey has played in five previous SA Opens, with a tie for 11th place in December 2008 at Pearl Valley his best finish.


The experienced Thomas Levet is another foreigner coming to Glendower.


And, if it’s his day, the former Ryder Cup player could become the first Frenchman to claim the SA Open title.


He’s going to have to make up for a year that has seen him miss 14 of 23 cuts, while he also failed to make the weekend in his two of his three previous SA Open appearances, at Stellenbosch in 1999 and East London in 2001. He finished in a tie for 16th in 2000 at Randpark and his return to Johannesburg could see him challenge again.


But the foreigners will have their work cut out to ward off the challenges of the local heroes, including 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, two-time US Open champion Retief Goosen and European Tour winners Darren Fichardt, Dawie van der Walt, Thomas Aiken, Garth Mulroy and Jbe’ Kruger.



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