Major Champion Charl Schwartzel is aiming to continue the home nation’s dominance of the SA Open Championship this week.
Schwartzel’s compatriots Tim Clark (2002 and 2005), Trevor Immelman (2003-2004), Retief Goosen (2006), Ernie Els (1998, 2007 and 2010), James Kingston (2008) Richard Sterne (2009) and defending champion Hennie Otto have all won South Africa’s national Open in recent seasons, and the 2011 Masters Tournament Champion – whose brother Atti is also in the field – is intent on adding his name to that illustrious list.
The closest Schwartzel came to winning the title was in 2005, when he finished in a tie for second place behind Clark.
He said: “The SA Open is definitely one of the events I want to win in my career. When you look at the players who have won the Championship in the past, it would be an honour and a privilege to see my name alongside theirs on the trophy. South Africans have obviously got a great record in the event, so hopefully this year it can be my turn to give the home crowds something to cheer about.”
Schwartzel will be joined at the Serengeti Golf & Wildlife Estate by his fellow Major winner Martin Kaymer, who heads to Ekurhuleni on the back of a top ten finish at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
Kaymer has won a European Tour title in every season since 2008, but he is yet to enter the winners’ enclosure so far this season and, with just next week’s DP World Tour Championship remaining, the German will be keen to keep that run going.
Kaymer is currently in 24th place in The Race to Dubai, and will be hoping to take home the lion’s share of the €1million prize fund as he seeks to climb into the all-important top ten.
Otto, meanwhile, will be bidding to follow in the footsteps of his fellow South African Immelman, who successfully defended the SA Open title in 2004.
Twelve months ago, Otto held off a charging Bernd Wiesberger of Austria on the final day to secure his second European Tour title.
The 36 year old Boksburg native is now aiming to end a frustrating season on a high, saying: “It’ll be nice to go home. I grew up near the Serengeti, so I feel right at home there. It hasn’t been a good year, what with my back injury, but hopefully I can find something special. I hit some good shots last week and also the week before but just didn’t hole enough putts, so hopefully I can carry that ball-striking form into this week and get the putter going.
“My putting during the tournament last year was tremendous, which is important there because the greens are tricky. The week before I’d almost won at Leopard Creek, so I knew I was in good form and managed to get the win.
“I’m sure I’ll be drawing on my memories of the victory. It was on my bucket list, so it was great to tick it off. There are some great names on the trophy, so it was a real honour just to put my name alongside them. Nobody can take it away from me.”
In contrast to Otto, compatriot Braden Grace has enjoyed a stunning season, and the 24 year old is this week bidding to become the first European Tour Member to win five Tour titles in a single season since England’s Lee Westwood achieved the feat in 2000.
Other notable names in the field include six time European Tour champion Henrik Stenson and former winners Sterne and Kingston.