The 44th Ryder Cup has gone into the history books, and it’s back to regular play for South Africans on the European, American and Sunshine tours this week.
Having been spectators for Europe’s proud triumph over the Americans in the Ryder Cup in Rome last weekend, the “Saffers’ will be on the hunt in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland and Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi from Thursday, in terms of high-profile competitions.
As before, a strong South African contingent will be trying their luck in links golf at the historical home of the sport at St Andrews in Fife, on the east coast of Scotland.
Included in the group are Thriston Lawrence, Oliver Bekker, Louis de Jager, JC Ritchie, Bryce Easton, Wilco Nienaber, Thomas Aiken, Jaco Prinsloo, Hennie du Plessis, Louis Oosthuizen, Dylan Naidoo, Yurav Premlall, Dean Burmester and Rupert Kaminski. The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship is one of the richest tournaments on the European Tour.
The prize money on offer is $5million (R96,3 million), plus the South Africans will get to mix with several celebrities in the pro-am event, such as Catherine Zeta-Jones, Andy Garcia and Ronan Keating.
Meanwhile, the Sanderson Farms Championship at the Country Club of Jackson in Mississippi will feature five Saffers who hold precious playing cards for the U.S. PGA Tour — Christiaan Bezuidenhout, MJ Daffue, Dylan Frittelli, Garrick Higgo and Erik van Rooyen.
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The prize pot there is $8,2 million and the defending champion is Mackenzie Hughes of Canada.
Country Club of Jackson is hosting the tournament for the 10th consecutive year.
On the Sunshine Tour, home-based players will tackle the Fortress Invitational at Glendower Golf Club in Edenvale, Gauteng. The prize pot is R2 million and the course has a long history that dates back to 1937.
In 1973, the club was proclaimed a nature reserve to preserve the rich bird life found around the course, according to the Sunshine Tour.
During the 1980s, the course saw a major face change, with all 18 greens reshaped and rebuilt, new tee positions added and new water features placed at a number of holes. In terms of the world rankings at the moment, no South African is sitting in the top 20, or even the top 50, partly because some of the best now play in the breakaway LIV Golf.
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The highest placed player from these parts is Lawrence at No.89, followed by Bezuidenhout at 111, Burmester at 119, Higgo at 164 and Du Plessis at 189. There appears to be some catching up to be done.
The top three ranked players are Scottie Scheffler of the U.S., Rory McIlroy from Northern Ireland and Jon Rahm of Spain, all of whom featured in the Ryder Cup last week.