Have SA’s golfers lost French Open mojo?

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

As other in­ter­na­tional golfers on the Euro­pean Tour en­joy com­pet­ing at the French Open, the struggle for South African players to win at Le Golf Na­tional in Paris, France, con­tin­ues.

One of the old­est com­pe­ti­tions on the tour, the tour­na­ment tees off on Thursday at the venue of next year’s Ry­der Cup.

The con­test car­ries with it a €3 mil­lion (R43.5 mil­lion) prize.

But, un­like many other big events on the Euro­pean Tour cir­cuit, where South African golfers have ex­celled, the Open seems to be elu­sive for lo­cal golfers.

The last player from these shores to win at this par­tic­u­lar venue was Retief Goosen in 1997, when he beat English­man Jamie Spence by three strokes.

The Goose went on to win the same com­pe­ti­tion played in Mé­doc in 1999, where he de­feated New Zealand’s Greg Turner. This was the last piece of Open sil­ver­ware to be cap­tured by a player from Mzansi.

Since then, there has been a marked scarcity of lo­cal golfers on the win­ners’ podium.

The course is di­vided into two – al­ba­tross (par-72) and ea­gle (par-71). There is also a short nine-hole, par-32 birdie course.

The 18-hole course is likely to be tougher for players com­pet­ing at the Open this year than the past two years; the green has un­der­gone a facelift to make it even more chal­leng­ing.

The fact that the course does not suit the players could also be a rea­son South African players do not ex­cel in France.

Last year’s show­down was cap­tured by Thai­land’s Thongchai Jaidee, who reg­is­tered -11 for 273 to beat Italy’s Francesco Moli­nari by four strokes.

How­ever, the fact that they are strug­gling at Le Golf Na­tional has not made the South Africans de­spair.

This is il­lus­trated by the fact that five players – Hen­nie Otto, Dean Burmester, Dar­ren Fichardt, Bran­don Stone and Ge­orge Coet­zee – in­tend to swing their clubs at the show­piece.

As ex­pected, the Open will give the players plenty of work as the pun­ish­ing course is set to have the field strug­gling.

Be­fore Goosen’s tri­umph two decades ago, the late Vin­cent Tsha­bal­ala won the ti­tle in 1976, fol­lowed by Dale Hayes two years later.

PHOTO: WAR­REN LIT­TLE / GETTY IMAGES

LAST HOPE Retief Goosen was the last South African to win the French Open

PHOTO: LUKE WALKER / SUN­SHINE TOUR / GALLO IMAGES

GET IT Hen­nie Otto will be one of five South Africans at the open

PHOTO: LUKE WALKER / SUN­SHINE TOUR / GALLO IMAGES

ON COURSE Na­tional Dar­ren Fichardt will play at Le Golf

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