Alvaro Quiros, Spain’s newest winner on The European Tour International Schedule, will seek a quick-fire South African double when he lines up in the field for the South African Airways Open at historic Humewood Golf Club in Port Elizabeth just a few days after capturing the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
The 23 year old will renew his rivalry with South African Charl Schwartzel, whom he beat by one shot at Leopard Creek Country Club on Sunday, and third placed Lee Westwood of England, who is still smarting after seeing a winning chance slip through his grasp in the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
Quiros, now exempt on The European Tour until the end of 2009, can enjoy the prospect of playing against those players and some of the biggest names in world golf, namely Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Trevor Immelman.
Goosen, the World Number Five, defends the title he won in dramatic fashion at The Links at Fancourt last year, when he beat close friend and compatriot Els by a shot. Goosen birdied the final two holes to deprive Els of back to back wins on home soil and the latter, who finished strongly at Leopard Creek with a pair of 69s to tie for eighth, will enjoy the challenge of another meeting with the player ranked three places higher than him in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Immelman, meanwhile, returns to an event he dominated for a brief spell. The World Number 13 won his first South African Airways Open at Erin Vale near Cape Town in 2003 and made a successful defence of the title at the same venue 12 months later.
Argentina’s Angel Cabrera is another potential champion after making the long journey from Barbados in the Caribbean to South Africa after partnering youngster Andres Romero to a share of fifth place in the WGC-Barbados World Cup.
This will be the fifth occasion that Humewood Golf Club, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, has hosted the event, the last being in 1957.
The South African Airways Open is also considered to be returning to its roots, with it first being played in Port Elizabeth in 1893. It was from these beginnings that it grew into the premier event it is today, co-sanctioned by both The European Tour and Sunshine Tour and featuring the cream of the world’s players.
History will also be made in that this marks the first time the Championship has been played on two links courses in consecutive years, moving from The Links at Fancourt to Humewood, the only natural links course in South Africa.
Several changes have been made to a layout expected to provide a stern test for the world’s finest professionals, including the lengthening of the course to over 7,000 yards.
Humewood Golf Club has very strong ties with the history of the Championship. Sid Brews won two of his eight national Open titles at this layout and became its oldest champion at 52 years and 11 months with his victory there in 1952.
Bobby Locke won the fifth of his nine national Open titles at Humewood in 1940 by a staggering ten shots, and Harold Henning won the last Open at Humewood in 1957.
As a test of golf, Locke declared it worthy of hosting a British Open should it ever be played outside the United Kingdom, and double US Open Champion Goosen included Humewood’s sixth hole as one of his 18 favourite holes in the world.