The 149th Open Championship at Royal St George’s in Sandwich, England, which tees off on Thursday might just be the major championship which is perfect for Christiaan Bezuidenhout to stage a demonstration of just how good a golfer he really is.
Ever since he turned professional in 2015, and finished runner-up to Brandon Stone in January 2016 in the South African Open Championship, he has looked the part of South Africa’s next major champion in a pedigreed line from Bobby Locke through Gary Player, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Charl Schwartzel to Louis Oosthuizen.
Four Sunshine Tour titles later – two of them in tournaments co-sanctioned by the European Tour – and another European Tour title, and he’s become a champion in the SA Open himself. The world number 45 has been able to pace his season ever since he won the Alfred Dunhill Championship and the SA Open back-to-back in November and December last year. And the season comes to its climax this week at Royal St George’s.
While his play on the European Tour has not been stellar, with a best of a share of 12th early in the year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, he has taken himself to the United States where the big bucks are and the world ranking points are commensurate with the very strong fields. There, he has a seventh-place finish in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
But it has been the measured way he has prepared for the major championships which has been the focus of his year, and things are falling into place very nicely ahead of the Open.
Bezuidenhout has solid weeks behind him in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the abrdn Scottish Open, where he finished 23rd and 44th respectively. But it has been the fact that he has produced three under-par rounds in each of those events in trying conditions which has indicated his readiness to get it all together on the biggest of all the golf stages.
He has all the attributes of someone who can become an Open champion: Long enough off the tee, he averages over 285 yards on both of the tours. He’s accurate too, hitting nearly 60 percent of all fairways, and he becomes even more accurate when going for the green, as he hits 72 percent of them in regulation in European conditions.
Bezuidenhout’s putting was better last year, but that has been turning around in his last two events as he has had 1.8 putts per green in regulation. That could be key to his performance this week.
Under the tutelage of Grant Veenstra, a coach who is rapidly becoming one the best in South Africa, Bezuidenhout certainly looks the finished article as what has been an astonishing year for South African men in golf heads to the championship which calls its winner ‘the champion golfer of the year’.
The reigning SA Open champion is joined in the field by 12 other South Africans, making the contingent from South Africa the third-largest from any country behind the United States and England. They are spearheaded by Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion who has been runner-up in the last two majors – the PGA Championship and the US Open.
Els is the other South African in the field who is an Open champion, having won in 2002 and 2012.
The rest from South Africa are Jaco Ahlers, Dean Burmester, Dylan Frittelli, Branden Grace, Justin Harding, Garrick Higgo, Shaun Norris, JC Ritchie, Erik van Rooyen and Daniel van Tonder.
The Open Championship main feed will be on SuperSport channel 213 on Thursday at 7.30am, on Friday at 7.30am, on Saturday at 11am and on Sunday at 10am.
- Courtesy satourgolf.co.za