Thomas Aiken finished in a share of seventh at The Open Championship at the weekend and spoke not only of his tournament, but of the respect South Africans have for the event.
ÂThe Open Championship is the one you watch on TV as a little kid. ItÂs the oldest in the world, and the names on the trophy are irreplaceable,Â he said.
While Ernie Els was blissfully unaware of the Claret Jug headed his way, Aiken was already reminiscing over what it meant to take his best-yet finish at The Open.
ÂThe course is normally terribly unfair, and so are the conditions,Â said Aiken. ÂAll of the guys playing good golf at the time are on top, which says a lot for the course. There are so many South Africans in the field this year, and itÂs great to have so many of them doing well.Â
Els is the latest name carved into The Jug, but he and Aiken were by no means the only locals to take away success from their time at Royal Lytham and St Annes. 14 South Africans played in The Open, which meant the country was the third-best represented at the 2012 edition of golfÂs oldest major. Of the 14 who qualified, seven played the weekend and three finished in the top 20 – not exactly a bad haul.
Aiken was aware of the long-standing history of golf in South Africa, and of the place The Open holds in every local professionalÂs dreams.
ÂSouth Africans just love The Open,Â he said. ÂEspecially with the South African Open being the second-oldest golf tournament in the world. Those are the two pieces of silverware IÂd like to add to my shelf.
ÂI won the Spanish Open last year, which is the third-oldest national open in the world. So IÂd like to add the next two to my collection. Further down the road it would be great to lift the trophy.Â