Oosthuizen leads six-Saffa charge at Augusta

Oosthuizen leads six-Saffa charge at Augusta

Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa plays his shot from the 17th tee in his match against Kevin Kisner of the United States during the quarterfinal round of the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club on March 30, 2019 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The familiar crowd will be present, though late-bloomer Justin Harding could be an interesting bet.

ix South Africans, led by Louis Oosthuizen, will tee it up at The Masters at Augusta starting next week Thursday.

The 2010 Open Champion lost in a play-off in The Masters in 2012 when American Bubba Watson triumphed.

The 36-year-old is the top-ranked SA player in the field at 20th in the world, and is in good form coming off a run to the quarterfinal of the World Golf Championship Match Play last week, and a second place finish at the Valspar Championship at the end of March.

SA number two Branden Grace is ranked 43rd in the world and has been a strong contender in the Majors since 2015.

The 30-year-old has had five top-10s in the big four golf events including his fourth place finish at the US Open in 2015.

Last year was the first time in four years he did not produce a top-20 finish in a Major, and he can be expected to put that right at the famed Augusta layout.

Charl Schwartzel, 2011 Masters champion, could be a factor.

His recent form, however, seems to suggest he may have his work cut out as he has slipped to 102nd in the world rankings and only gains entry to the tournament as a former winner.

The 34-year-old former world number-six had not been ranked outside the top-100 in the world since September 2008, but that streak was finally broken when he slipped two places to his current ranking on Monday.

Justin Harding, meanwhile, earned his first-ever invite to the year’s first Major after finishing inside the top-50 in the world ranking at the end of March.

Justin Harding of South Africa lines up a putt on the second green in his match against Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland during the second round of the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club on March 28, 2019 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The 33-year-old finished second in the Kenya Open on the European Tour on March 17.

It was yet another top finish for Harding after he won the Qatar Masters just a week prior, for his European Tour breakthrough, when he picked up the winner’s cheque of R4.2m.

Since February last year he’s played in 22 countries, registering 16 top-10 finishes in the process.

The win in Qatar was his fifth in nine months.

In fact, at the end of 2017 Harding was ranked 712th in the world and in less than two years has already made his way into the world’s elite golfers.

Another former Masters champion Trevor Immelman will also be teeing it up.

At 456th in the world rankings and five missed cuts in his last seven events, the 39-year-old may battle to make the cut.

Joining Harding as a Masters debutant will be 21-year-old Jovan Rebula.

The young nephew of four-time Major champion Ernie Els earned his invite to Augusta by winning the 2018 British Amateur.

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