Time to turn the tide
Cape Town - South Africa elite golf contingent’s poor run of form could well come to an end at The Players.
Talking about swimming upstream. The prevailing thinking - backed up by the odds - would suggest that South Africa’s drought when it comes to the flowing of champagne as a PGA TOUR winner will continue past this weekend.
TPC Sawgrass, home of the infamous 17th island green par 3, could well be the host of a Saffa win. Even the most loyal of supporters are having a tough time pinning their national colours to the mast as the wait (and wait and wait) for another SA win.
Put Louis, Charl and Branden together and you have 3 wins on US soil. Just three. They only have 15 to go to match Ernie Els’ record “Stateside”. Rory Sabbatini, in the field this week, has six. That shows why so many are starting to wonder if ever the star trio are going to step it up and start adding to their group tally.
Journeyman Tyrone Van Aswegen is the fifth and final Saffa in the field but it would be a Leicester-type feat if he was to outlast them all at Sawgrass. In truth, Sabbatini is past his best by a few years and Van Aswegen’s eyes are on his own prize - making the cut as he looks to add dollars to his bank balance.
Back down to three then for a local winner. Branden Grace has taken a few weeks off to settle in fatherhood and while not exactly fitting the “beware the injured golfer” phrase, caution is still advised in ruling out the rusty one.
Schwartzel has two top 10s in his last two outings and is starting to show progress but when you throw Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler into the mix, progress isn’t good enough.
So really, we are down to one. A lone hope. A single flicker in the dark times on US soil. Louis Oosthuizen. He was “oh so close” last year as unheralded Si Woo Kim pipped home on Sunday and claimed the accolades but there’s enough in King Louis’ game at the moment to suggest that, if his putter warms up, he’ll be one to watch.
That putter is temperamental and it cost him a handsome payday at The Masters but he’ll gladly take The Players as his back-up prize. The tide around the 17th is starting to gather momentum, the crowd will be expecting a marquee player to win. Oosthuizen could, however, be the one to turn the tide.
It’s not that unthinkable, remember Tim Clark did the business here in 2010. It’s time for (South) Africa once more.
SA odds at The Players: