South Africa’s rising stars will have the opportunity to emulate some of their more famous compatriots, when The European Tour moves from Johannesburg to the Eastern Cape for this week’s Africa Open.
East London Golf Club is the setting for the fifth of six European Tour events in South African in 2013, and the home contingent will be looking to maintain a formidable record in the tournament, with the roll of honour so far dominated by two of South Africa’s Major Champions.
Charl Schwartzel won the inaugural event in 2010 before going on to win the 2011 Masters Tournament, while Louis Oosthuizen followed his 2010 Open Championship triumph by taking the title in the last two years.
Now the next generation of South African players will be attempting to follow in their footsteps and continue their country’s impressive record of winning 31 of 51 tournaments co-sanctioned between The European Tour and the Sunshine Tour played on home soil.
In particular, the likes of Jaco van Zyl, who finished fourth in the last two editions of the Africa Open, and Jbe’ Kruger, twice in the top ten, will be keen to seize the opportunity and make it back-to-back victories for South Africa on The European Tour following Richard Sterne’s win in last week’s Joburg Open.
Sterne had to pull out of this week’s event after qualifying for next week’s WGC-Accenture World Match Play Championship courtesy of his sixth European Tour title, but that opens the door for some of the less established players including Kruger who made his breakthrough in last year’s Avantha Masters.
“Being a co-sanctioned event, it is a big thing in South Africa,” said Kruger. “And the fact that Louis has won this after winning The Open makes it even bigger. It’s the biggest stretch of the year for the Sunshine Tour, and having the fans behind you definitely helps.”
The field also carries a strong international presence, with Portugal’s Ricardo Santos – the 2012 Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year – currently in a rich vein of form after three top ten finishes in the last four weeks, including tied third in the Joburg Open.
Qualifying School graduates can also draw confidence from the performances of past alumni, with Manuel Quiros finishing tied second in 2011 – when he lost out in a play-off to Oosthuizen – whilst last year South African Tjaart Van der Walt also finished runner-up, again to Oosthuizen.