And the R22.4m prize as they tee off at Au­gusta

Lo­cal names will be in the run­ning to com­pete for the cov­eted green jacket

CityPress - - Sport - PULE MOKHINE pmokhine@city­press.co.za

It is that time of the year when the golf­ing fra­ter­nity ush­ers in the Masters Tour­na­ment. The first golf ma­jor of the year tees off at Au­gusta Na­tional Golf Club in Au­gusta, Ge­or­gia, US, on April 6, with the crème de la crème of world golf com­pet­ing for the cov­eted green jacket and the $1.8 mil­lion (R22.4 mil­lion) first prize.

For South Africa, it will be the usual sus­pects when five play­ers – Trevor Im­mel­man, Charl Schwartzel, Bran­den Grace, Louis Oosthuizen and Ernie Els – take to the fair­ways at the hal­lowed course.

They played in last year’s con­test, which was won by Eng­land’s Danny Wil­lett, who closed with a five un­der-par 283.

Oosthuizen fin­ished tied 15th last year, but the rest of his com­pa­tri­ots missed the cut.

Im­mel­man and Schwartzel qual­i­fied by virtue of win­ning the event in 2008 and 2011, re­spec­tively. Pre­vi­ous Masters win­ners gain au­to­matic qual­i­fi­ca­tion, hence both will be play­ing once more.

Grace and Oosthuizen will com­pete be­cause they are in­side the top 50 in world rank­ings.

Grace, who is placed 19th, is the coun­try’s lead­ing golfer in the global rank­ings. Oosthuizen’s name ap­pears 27th. And there is also the strug­gling Els, who has booked a ticket to the Masters be­cause of his 2012 Bri­tish Open win. That vic­tory en­sured the “Big Easy” a five-year par­tic­i­pa­tion stretch in the Masters.

But his time in the con­test may come to an end this year, de­pend­ing on whether he wins some­thing big on the PGA Tour or one of the ma­jors.

Els is cur­rently in a pre­car­i­ous po­si­tion in the world rank­ings as his name ap­pears at a dis­ap­point­ing 404th in this week’s rung.

Ac­cord­ing to Sun­shine Tour mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor Dun­can Cruick­shank, the play­ers are ready to do the coun­try proud by play­ing well at Au­gusta.

“They have been so se­ri­ous at their dif­fer­ent games on the Euro­pean and US cir­cuits, where they com­pete. They want to give it their best shot this time around,” said Cruick­shank.

How­ever, Grace will most likely carry the weight of his fel­low coun­try­men at the Masters.

PHOTO: AN­DREW REDINGTON / GETTY IMAGES

BIG EASY Ernie Els will have his last run at Au­gusta this year

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