Strong con­tin­gent of play­ers aim for glory at year’s sec­ond ma­jor

New and vet­eran Two gecages of US Open win­ners

CityPress - - Sport - PULE MOKHINE pmokhine@city­ (see graphic).

Sun­shine Tour pro­fes­sional golfers Thomas Aiken and Tjaart van der Walt will make their de­but in the US Open on Thurs­day at Cham­bers Bay Golf Course in the state of Wash­ing­ton, US.

Their pres­ence in the sec­ond ma­jor of the year adds mus­cle to a nine-mem­ber South African con­tin­gent in the tour­na­ment.

The Jo­han­nes­burg-born Aiken (31), who also plays on the Euro­pean Tour, gained en­try into the Open by win­ning the Sun­shine Tour Or­der of Merit in Novem­ber. This fol­lowed his play-off victory over English­man Oliver Fisher in the Africa Open at the East Lon­don Golf Club, Eastern Cape, in Fe­bru­ary last year.

Van der Walt (40), a Pre­to­ria-born vet­eran who is now based in Florida, US, won the 2013 Lion of Africa Cape Town Open at the Royal Cape Golf Club, West­ern Cape.

The play­ers will join an ar­ray of lo­cal tal­ent con­sist­ing of Ernie Els, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Garth Mul­roy, Bran­den Grace, Ge­orge Coet­zee and Retief Goosen.

Goosen, win­ner of the 2001 and 2004 events, qual­i­fied on Mon­day. Els be­came the first South African to tri­umph in 1994 – lead­ing the way for other South Africans to fea­ture in the Open

Sun­shine Tour me­dia of­fi­cer Mike Green said: “The pres­ence of Aiken and Van der Walt will add more power to South Africans to dom­i­nate the scene. Both are good golfers and we ex­pect them to do well in this ma­jor.”

De­fend­ing cham­pion Martin Kaymer of Ger­many should be brim­ming with con­fi­dence again. He carded an im­pres­sive nine-un­der-par for a to­tal of 271 last year, beat­ing Amer­i­cans Erik Comp­ton and Rickie Fowler by eight strokes to lift the tro­phy.

But all eyes will be on world num­ber one Rory McIl­roy. The Ir­ish­man holds the record in the event for the low­est ag­gre­gate score – -16 for a to­tal of 268 – in the 2011 edi­tion.

Tiger Woods mean­while has con­tin­ued his down­ward spi­ral, log­ging a ca­reer-worst 13-over 85 at the Me­mo­rial Tour­na­ment in Dublin, Ohio, last week.

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