Major attractions on the way
SA hasn’t produced a winner in one of the world’s illustrious tournaments since 2012. We take a look at who in the next generation is likely to make a breakthrough
also expressed reservations about the extension.
“I don’t know about the new tee on 18, if they are really going to stick with that. I hit driver and I couldn’t see the green,” he said after his round in the Pro Am. “It’s a bit of a strange one. I thought it was a great hole with a normal tee, but you know, course is about ... yeah,” said Oosthuizen.
Tournament director Ken Payet explained the rationale behind the decision before the event and expressed the hope the change would “add quite a different dimension to the way the 18th plays”.
Sergio Garcia, a two-time winner here and leader after the first round, hasn’t played in this event over the past few years. He didn’t seem to mind the alteration.
“It’s nice,” said Garcia, who had reason to smile after he completed the first round in an impressive 64. “You pretty much hit it to the same spot. Instead of hitting a two-iron or five wood or something like that, now you have to hit driver or a really strong threewood.
“You hit it just short of that right hand bunker. Obviously they are asking you to hit with more club off the tee. I think it was good.”
The change, however, has left Schwartzel unimpressed. “I don’t think length is always the answer.”
● SA’s lengthening absence from the Majors honours roll shouldn’t be a barometer of the country’s standing in the game globally.
Ernie Els’s win in the Open in 2012 may be the country’s last success in that elite sphere, but former pro and popular golfing personality Dale Hayes believes there is nothing to worry about.
“Our players internationally punch way above their weight,” said Hayes, who was inducted into the South African Hall of Fame this week. “Take this year. We’ve had Justin Harding winning on the Asian Tour, Shaun Norris winning in Japan, we’ve had guys winning on the European Tour. Our guys have been seriously successful.
“This year the British Amateur is from SA, the guy who won the British Open for juniors is from SA. Golf in SA from that perspective is in a really good space.
“We haven’t won Majors, yes, but there are only four Majors a year. It is not a lot and you have thousands of professional golfers. You are not going to win a lot of Majors.”
To underline his point Hayes said he could not remember the last Australian to win a Major (Jason Day won the US PGA in 2015) but recalled Michael Campbell as the last New Zealander to win one of the top four elite events.
“There will be time periods where we will see our players (from a particular country) do well. It’s weird when you look back at Zimbabwe in the days of Nick Price and Mark McNulty.
“A whole group of them came through at the same time. They fed off each other and improved. The same applied to Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen.”
Though he believes Oosthuizen and Schwartzel, who won the Open (2010) and the Masters (2011) respectively, are young and gifted enough to add to their Major tally, Hayes pointed to a new generation most likely to make an impact in the Majors.
“Our next group of players will be Haydn Porteous, Dean Burmester and Brandon Stone. Those are three guys who could win Major championships.”
He went on to explain why he believes the trio will be contenders.
“They’ve got the power, they hit the ball far enough, they have desire, they have natural talent. They have everything.”
He is equally confident they possess the required mental fortitude. “I think they do. They have all won tournaments already. They are all relatively young. Brandon won a really big tournament, the Scottish Open. It is one of the biggest tournaments in Europe. His next step now is perhaps to win a tournament in America and then maybe a Major championship. But it doesn’t always work like that. Louis Oosthuizen has won the Open Championship but he’s never won in America. You never know. But they all have the game.”
The 36-year-old Oosthuizen has come tantalisingly close to adding to his Major tally. He was runner up in the US PGA last year, in the Open in 2015 and the Masters in 2012.
“Louis has been a little unlucky,” said Hayes. “He lost in a play-off for the Open Championship. Bubba Watson beat him in a play-off at the US Masters. He’s come very, very close and has been unlucky. He’s done well to come second.”
Though he has performed well on tour Oosthuizen admits the elusive second win in a Major is an irritation. “It might be satisfying for some people but when I play in the Majors I want to give everything I have to try and win it. I played well in them this year. Again I couldn’t really get the rounds going. I felt great going into them.
“It’s getting tougher and tougher to win events because everyone is getting better and better. You need to keep working on your game and try to find that edge to keep up with the boys,” Oosthuizen admitted.
Hayes is infectiously upbeat about the country’s prospects in the Majors. “It’s gonna happen. There is no question about it. I wouldn’t write off Charl and Louis. They’ve got more Majors in them. I have no doubt in my mind.”
Haydn Porteous, Dean Burmester and Brandon Stone ... could win Majors Dale Hayes
South African Hall of Famer
From left, Brandon Stone, Branden Grace, Dylan Frittelli and Haydn Porteous rank among the men most likely to win the country's next Major.