Wal­lace can main­tain that Eng­land streak

The Racing Paper - - Golf - by Mitchell Platts

SOUTH AFRICAN OPEN

Rand­park GC,

WHO would bet against an English­man win­ning this week’s South African Open when one of the old­est na­tional cham­pi­onships re­turns to the Rand­park Golf Club in the north-west suburbs of Jo­han­nes­burg?

And what price Matt Wal­lace be­ing that English­man by con­tin­u­ing a run of suc­cess with three vic­to­ries in 2018 fol­low­ing his maiden Eu­ro­pean Tour win in the 2017 Open de Por­tu­gal?

Wal­lace’s sen­sa­tional se­quence rep­re­sents a stu­pen­dous chap­ter in the ‘Glory, Glory Eng­land’ story on the Eu­ro­pean Tour with Chris Pais­ley, Tommy Fleet­wood, Ed­die Pep­perell (twice), Richard McEvoy, Paul War­ing, Matt Fitz­patrick, Tom Lewis, Justin Rose, Lee West­wood and Danny Wil­lett all win­ning last sea­son.

Then last Sun­day Wolver­hamp­ton’s Aaron Rai launched the new sea­son by cap­tur­ing the Honma Hong Kong Open – cel­e­brat­ing the ninth English win in the last 15 Eu­ro­pean Tour events.

So Wal­lace is primed to ex­tend that ex­tra­or­di­nary cy­cle as, co­in­ci­den­tally, Hex­ham-born Pais­ley de­fends a ti­tle won three times in the last four years by English­men – Andy Sul­li­van and Graeme Storm were the cham­pi­ons in 2015 and 2017 re­spec­tively.

Bran­don Stone, the 2016 win­ner, is one of many fan­cied South African con­tenders chas­ing this pres­ti­gious ti­tle – Gary Player won it a record 13 times – with Ernie Els bid­ding for his sixth suc­cess and Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Bran­den Grace, beaten by Pais­ley 12 months ago, among those in the field.

Three of Wal­lace’s four Eu­ro­pean Tour wins have been achieved on first time visits so he should rel­ish this lat­est chal­lenge.

He looks a stand-out se­lec­tion with Oosthuizen and Grace, third and 11th at the re­cent Ned­bank Chal­lenge, his big­gest dan­gers and Ty­rone Fer­reira, the lead­ing South African am­a­teur in 2007, could sur­prise – he was the last pro­fes­sional to win at Rand­park in the 2010 SA Pro-Am In­vi­ta­tional on the Sun­shine Tour.

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