19th June 2017 | Sunshine Tour
Bekker looks ahead after debut US Open
When the top three golfers in the world – well, they were the top three last week, at any rate – exit the US Open before the weekend, there is going to be some self-reflection by all players at the highest level.
And after promising starts, and with five of the eight South Africans in the field making the cut at Erin Hills, South African players will also be doing some introspection. That is especially true since the US Open scoring record of 16-under-par was matched by eventual champion Brooks Koepka – so good scores were there to be made.
The world’s top three, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day all departed early, as did players like Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Adam Scott and John Rahm. They were joined by Charl Schwartzel, Oliver Bekker and George Coetzee.
Schwartzel, in particular, would have been disappointed, especially since his schedule planning over the last year has revolved around peaking for the majors. His performance at the Masters would have given him confidence ahead of the US Open, but his second round of four-over 76 would have been distressing.
Coetzee’s second-round 79 was just not in the ballpark when it came to making the cut, and he will want to shake the effects of that off as quickly as possible and get going in his next tournament, which is the BMW International Open in Munich.
Bekker was playing in his first major, and he had to deal with all the newness of the experience. “It wasn’t my best golf this week and I’m a little disappointed,” Bekker told Sport24. “I was playing well heading into this week, but it’s okay. I took a lot out of this week and enjoyed the experience a lot.
“I realised that the top players in the world are only human as well, since more than half of the top 10 in the world rankings missed the cut,” added Bekker. “I missed the cut by a few, I felt like my putting let me down big time. Missed a few short ones, which cost me a lot. Otherwise it could have been a different story. So I don’t feel like this week was that bad for me for my first major.”
Louis Oosthuizen was South Africa’s best performing player. He shot a one-over-par 73 on Sunday to finish three-under 285 for the tournament. He finished tied for 23rd and was 13 shots behind Brooks Koepka.
Of the other South Africans who made the cut, Brandon Stone finished second-best in his US Open major debut at one-over for a share of 35th. Branden Grace closed with a four-over 76 for a share of 50th, while Ernie Els, who started so promisingly in the opening two rounds, finished on seven-over and Thomas Aiken on eight-over.
Stone’s performance gave him a leg-up in the world rankings to 86th, and Aiken climbed to 175th, but all the others who played at Erin Hills slipped down a couple of spots.