South Africa, represented by Ernie Els, David Frost and Retief Goosen, will be seeking an unprecedented hat-trick of victories in the Alfred Dunhill Cup at the Old Course, St.Andrews, this week.
The same trio has won the event for each of the past two years, defeating Sweden in the 1997 final and Spain last year.
Now, the South Africans are aiming to become the first nation to capture the trophy three years in a row by fielding world No.6 Els, South African Open champion Frost and Goosen, the reigning Novotel Open de France winner.
It is a case of same team, same tournament, same venue for South Africa, who won all three matches against the Spaniards in the final to set up the hat-trick opportunity.
In addition, Goosen has a personal goal this week – to equal then surpass Greg Norman’s Alfred Dunhill Cup record of 11 consecutive individual victories. At the moment, Goosen has a perfect record of ten out of ten – winning all five starts each year – and would love to emulate then overtake the great Australian.
Goosen admitted: “The team is definitely looking forward to the Alfred Dunhill Cup. We seem to combine very well together round a course we know. We are not putting pressure on each other. We just go out, the same format every time, and we are very comfortable with that.”
After a few days of cold, wet and windy weather in the Linde German Masters, he joked: “It’s been good practice for St.Andrews! It’s going to be great going back there. Everybody enjoys going there every year and it’s one of the best venues on the Tour. At the moment any side is a strong side and anyone can win.
“You have to go out there and try and play well and hope the other guy doesn’t play as well. I am not really thinking about the individual record. The main thing is for the team to win. If two guys come through that’s great.
“Obviously I need to win two more games to set a new record but five out of five in the last two years was great. For any team it’s great to win for your country.”
Els admitted: “Retief is a very tough guy to beat on this golf course. You could put anybody up against him and they would get a tough game. He’s a wonderful player. We’ll probably have to go and put money on him to win the Open there next year!”
Two of last year’s Spanish side which finished runners-up will be back at the Old Course along with an eager newcomer. Sergio Garcia, second in the US PGA and a Ryder Cup star at The Country Club, joins forces with established players José Maria Olazábal and Miguel Angel Jiménez.
Olazábal said: “It’s a nice tournament. I really enjoy it. We all know that the weather will be pretty rough, but the people who go there to watch us have a great knowledge of the game. You don’t need to hit the ball a foot from the hole. They know how tough it is to play this game, so it’s always nice to be there.”
The United States, winners of the event on three separate occasions, are represented this year by current US Open champion Payne Stewart, the 1998 Masters and Open champion, Mark O’Meara, and 1996 Open champion, Tom Lehman.
Host nation Scotland will be led by Colin Montgomerie, whose team-mates are Open champion Paul Lawrie and regular money winner Gary Orr. England’s trio comprises Ryder Cup captain Mark James, Lee Westwood – a three-time winner in 1999 – and Dubai Desert Classic champion, David Howell.
Two Irish Ryder Cup players, Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington, are joined at the Old Course by Paul McGinley, while 1997 runners-up Sweden have Ryder Cup rookie Jarmo Sandelin in their line-up along with Gabriel Hjertstedt and Patrik Sjoland.