Richard Sterne defends his South African Open Championship title hoping to further tighten the home nation’s stranglehold on golf’s second oldest championship at the magnificent Pearl Valley Golf Estates.
Sterne became the eight consecutive home winner of the South African Open Championship when he defeated Gareth Maybin in a play-off 12 months ago and he will attempt to continue his country’s overwhelming dominance of the event, which has seen only nine foreign victors.
Among the host of home players joining Sterne in the bid to keep the South African Open on home soil will be European Tour champions Charl Schwartzel, who finished second to Pablo Martin at Leopard Creek last week, and James Kingston, the 2008 South African Open champion, along with two of South Africa’s brightest young players in Thomas Aiken and Louis Oosthuizen.
“Winning the South African Open last year was a defining moment in my career,” said Sterne, who finished tied fourth in last week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship, a crown he also won in the 2009 season.
“For most of us the Majors are our biggest focus, but for me personally, it has always been a dream and a goal to win our national Open.
“It was exactly as I imagined. When I watched James (Kingston) win and I saw the tears running down his cheeks at the prize giving, I wondered if I would feel the same. I wondered if winning the South African Open would reduce me to tears, and it did.
"There is definitely something different about a South African Open victory. As a young South African golfer, it's one of the most prestigious titles you can win. It's almost unbelievable to see your name engraved on that trophy alongside names such as Brews, Locke and Player – they were the pioneers of South African golf.”
While the home players are hoping to keep the South African Open Championship on home soil, there will be a talented foreign invasion looking to join the exclusive list of overseas winners.
The aforementioned nine men who shared 11 South African Open Championship victories were: England’s Tommy Horton (the first foreign winner, 1970), Bob Charles of New Zealand (1973), the USA’s Charles Bolling (1983), Tony Johnstone of Zimbabwe (1984 and 1993), Mark McNulty of Ireland (1987 and 2001), Fred Wadsworth of the USA (1989), Namibia’s Trevor Dodds (1990), Vijay Singh of Fiji (1997) and Sweden’s Mathias Grönberg (2000).
Spaniard Pablo Martin’s brilliant win in last week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship showed the way to the foreign players at Pearl Valley, and the young Spaniard will be looking to continue his perfect start to The 2010 Race to Dubai over the 7,309 yard Jack Nicklaus layout.
There is one European player who can pull of a remarkable ‘foreign’ first on South African soil this week.
Denmark’s Anders Hansen is bidding to become the first player from the northern hemisphere to win the Sunshine Tour’s Order of Merit. The 39 year old has won twice on the Sunshine Tour this year, at the Joburg Open and the Vodacom Championship, and after last week’s third place finish at Leopard Creek he leads Charl Schwartzel at the top of the money list going into the final event of the year.
|T4||ANDERSSON HED, Fredrik||SWE||18||-11|
|T6||MARTIN BENAVIDES, Pablo||ESP||18||-10|