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Tuesday, 22 November 2011
George Coetzee   (Getty Images)
George Coetzee (Getty Images)

The venue of this week’s SA Open Championship is named after the famous Serengeti landscape on which the Lion King movie is based and local favourite George Coetzee believes that anyone hoping to emerge as the “king of the jungle” will first have to overcome some incredibly tough greens in South Africa.

The greens at the Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate are already the major talking point ahead of this week’s SA Open Championship, with most of the professionals agreeing that this is where the greatest test will lie.

As the tournament returns to Gauteng for the first time since 2000, the general consensus is that Serengeti’s Masai Mara layout is primed to provide the perfect test for a field including Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Simon Dyson and a host of rising stars from the Sunshine Tour and The European Tour.

After Tuesday’s practice round, many agreed that mastering the course’s undulating greens will be key.

“The greens will definitely sort out the boys from the men,” said South African Coetzee, “I enjoy these greens, and I think overall this is going to be a pretty good challenge, especially if the wind blows.”

His compatriot Doug McGuigan agreed, saying: “The putter has to be hot here. There are so many tiers on these greens that if you’re on the wrong side you’re not going to make a putt. I think it will be a very spread out field where you will have some high scores with guys struggling on the greens. “I’ve played here a few times so I know what’s needed on these greens. If you get the ball on line it’s going to go in.

“But getting the correct distances on your irons is going to be really important. Anything hit long or short of these greens will make it very difficult to get up and down.”

Some of the South African Open’s past champions are also eagerly anticipating a great challenge this week.

“It’s going to be exciting to see how the players deal with this course,” said Denis Hutchinson, who was the last amateur to win the national Open in 1959.

“It’s a typical Jack Nicklaus design – wide fairways and lots of bunkers, but those won’t have much impact on the pros. The small, slopey greens though, will. If they keep them at a decent pace, we are going to have a great championship.”

And Clinton Whitelaw, the champion at Glendower in 1993, said he would expect nothing less than a stern test from a course hosting the national Open.

“The greens are pretty severe but it is an Open, after all, so it should be a challenge. I think in an Open, when you shoot 72, it’s a great score and a reflection of the standard an Open Championship should have.”

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