Tuesday, 20 January 2004
Mark Foster will aim to carve a small niche in European Tour history when he attempts to become the first player to successfully defend the dunhill championship title at Houghton Golf Club in Johannesburg.

A number of notable names have almost achieved the feat, namely last season's Volvo Order of Merit winner Ernie Els who finished tied second in 1996 after his victory in 1995; and Nick Price, the 1997 champion, who finished tied third in 1998.

Should Foster, who came through only the second six-man play-off in European Tour history at Houghton 12 months ago, record back-to-back successes, it would bring to an end a remarkable sequence in the tournament which has seen the bridesmaid step up to be the bride in the past two years.

When Adam Scott won in 2001, the player he relegated to second was Justin Rose, but the Englishman put matters right 12 months later when he claimed the trophy, then relegating Foster to a share of second, only for Foster to go one better himself in 2003.

Shrewd investors could well be advised then to look at the people who finished second to Foster last year as potential champions this time round, the quintet of candidates comprising Anders Hansen, Trevor Immelman, Paul Lawrie, Doug McGuigan and Bradford Vaughan.

Immelman is clearly the form horse having successfully defended his South African Airways Open title at Erinvale on Sunday and will have set his sights on going one better than last year where he narrowly missed out on back-to-back victories.

Immelman is part of an impressive home challenge in this, the ninth time the event has been jointly sanctioned between The European Tour and the Sunshine Tour.

Included in the home challenge are talents such as Darren Fichardt, James Kingston, Hennie Otto and Charl Schwartzel, all of whom finished in the top 75 on the 2003 Volvo Order of Merit.

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