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

Sunday Times - - Sport Golf/soccer - By LIAM DEL CARME at Sun City

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

Pic­tures: Gallo Im­ages and Reuters

From left, Bran­don Stone, Bran­den Grace, Dy­lan Frit­telli and Haydn Por­te­ous rank among the men most likely to win the coun­try's next Ma­jor.

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