Strong contingent of players aim for glory at year’s second major
New and veteran Two gecages of US Open winners
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.