Monday 19 February 2018

Els can lead home charge

WITH Major winners like Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and the man who ran away with the Claret Jug last summer, Louis Oosthuizen, prominent in the field, South Africa expects one of their own to prevail in this week's 100th edition of their national championship, WRITES WILLIAM S CALLAHAN.

Els (41), the highest world-ranked player in the field at No 12, has won the South African Open four times and believes his "game is really good at the moment".

Goosen is highly motivated for his bid to win this title for a third time -- saying "there is something indescribable about winning your national Open"-- while a tie for second place at last week's Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopards Creek scarcely did justice to the form of Charl Schwartzel.

Yet the man they'll all have to watch at Durban Country Club this weekend is Tim Clark, who grew up next door to the course and won the South African Open on its last two visits here in 2002 and 2005.

After romping home at the Players Championship at Sawgrass last May, Clark has every confidence in his ability to handle the pressure to perform in front of his own townsfolk, saying: "When I get into the situation where a tournament is on the line, I no longer get intimidated.

"On this course, it's all about hitting the fairway and hitting solid shots, especially when the wind blows. I've been working hard on that and I feel confident about my game," he added.

Scotland's Richie Ramsay defends the title he won at Pearl Valley last December. Yet one international visitor who has the game to give the locals a real run for their money this week is Kells man Damien McGrane, especially if he recaptures the form that lifted him into second place at Andalucia Masters in Valderrama recently.

McGrane and Belfast's Michael Hoey are the only two Irish golfers in the field.

Irish Independent

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