Given the record size of the field for the South African Open starting at Randpark Golf Club on Thursday, a fast start is going to be essential, according to Louis Oosthuizen, the highest-ranked golfer in the field and one of the favourites for the title.
With the SA Open now being combined with the Joburg Open and moved to Randpark with its two courses – Bushwillow and Firethorn – the field for the second oldest national open in the world is a whopping 240, bigger than it has ever been for this tournament and the largest on the European Tour.
“This is a tough week with 240 players. It’s all on how you start, how you get out of the blocks on Thursday and Friday. We all know the cut’s going to be really low, so you can’t really cruise from the start. You need to start well and play well and make sure you’re there by the weekend. Once you’re there, things change.
“Normally, you can sort of find your way through Thursday and Friday and put yourself in a good spot. But with all these players, you know you’ve got to come out and make a lot of birdies. Fortunately my game’s good, it’s trending in the direction I want it to be. There’s still a lot of work to be done to really be where I want it to be, but I’ve been doing a lot of different things with my coach and just getting a feel for a few more things. I drove it pretty well at the Nedbank Golf Challenge and the putting was good, but the iron play can improve. But all in all, it’s going in the direction I want it to go,” Oosthuizen, the world number 36, said.
While Oosthuizen is eyeing the SA Open crown to add to his Open Championship won in 2010 at St Andrew’s, Branden Grace is looking for a good fortnight as he will also be teeing it up at the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek next week.
Grace, who started the year in 30th place on the world rankings, said his slide to 50th made it imperative that he produced two good results at Randpark and Leopard Creek in order to seal his place at the Masters in Augusta next year, with the famous tournament giving initial invitations to the top-50 golfers in the world rankings at the end of the previous year.
“To end the year in the top-50 is obviously a goal and it would be very disappointing for me to fall out of that having been there for the last three or four years. The game feels in good enough shape to have a good week and that will take care of the rest, Augusta etc. My dream is for my son to caddy for me at the par-three next year, he’ll be just over a year old, but my wife and I reckon he’ll be walking before he can crawl!
“But for the next two weeks I must just let my golf do the talking, I’ve put in lots of hours and one round can just turn everything around. I’ve had a very consistent year, I missed only two cuts but I’ve dropped 20 places in the rankings. I just haven’t had that one win, if I win this then I believe I’ll go back up to 35th,” Grace said.