5th September 2018 | Sunshine Tour
Van Rooyen to lead SA contingent in Switzerland
Ernie Els’ resounding six-stroke victory over Australia’s Michael Campbell in the 2003 Omega European Masters – the only win there by a South African since Jeff Hawks’ one-shot win over Seve Ballesteros in 1991 – will serve as an inspiration for some among the 12 South African players teeing it up in Crans Montana this week.
Erik van Rooyen, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Haydn Porteous, Jacques Kruyswijk and Zander Lombard are some of the younger players whom would have drawn inspiration from Els’ character and sportsman over the years and now they stand to tee it up in a tournament which Els was the last South African winner.
History stares them right in the eyes and compatriots like Thomas Aiken, Dean Burmester, Darren Fichardt, George Coetzee, Jaco van Zyl, Richardt Sterne and 11-time European Tour winner Charl Schwartzel are faced with the same opportunity.
Van Rooyen and Bezuidenhout, in particular, were spectacular last week in the Made in Denmark with Van Rooyen finishing fifth while Bezuidenhout came in 20th after a solid four days of golf. They will be among those who will be watched closely but serial winners such as Schwartzel, Sterne and Coetzee must never be underestimated.
While Burmester’s run of six consecutive cuts was abruptly ended when he missed the cut at the D+D Czech Masters and in Denmark last week, the big-hitting South African is easily capable of causing an upset and when his game is on, he is no doubt a contender to be looked at. Two-time winner Porteous is returning to good form and has not missed a cut in his last three starts and boasts a top-10 from the Nordea Masters. His work rate is undeniable and he will want to win his third title in three years, having claimed the 2016 Joburg Open and last season’s D+D Czech Masters.
Lying 85th on the Race to Dubai after 20 events in his full rookie season, Kruyswijk has been consistent and has picked up important results in the process. He powered his way onto the European Tour via some solid rounds of golf in the qualifying school and up to this point, he has been holding his own. He will see the trip to Switzerland as another opportunity for him to try and claim his first title in his maiden season in Europe.
Following his victory at Joburg Open last season, Fichardt will want to add another title to his glittering cabinet. The 16-time Sunshine Tour winner is as dangerous as they come, and after forcing himself into the playoff two weeks ago at Wild Coast, one gets the sense that after the short break he had taken, Fichardt is ready to contend on the big stages in the world again.
On the other hand, 14-time Sunshine Tour winner, Van Zyl, is still looking for his maiden European Tour win and coming back from a long layoff due to injury, he will not want to pressure himself. His first and only starts on the Sunshine Tour this season – Sun Carnival City Challenge and Vodacom Origins of Golf Zebula – didn’t yield the desired results and he missed the cut at both those events.
That, however, should mean very little in a new week and a different tournament and Van Zyl will treat it as an opportunity to gauge the level of his game as he builds up to full fitness.