Charl Schwartzel may have fulfilled a childhood dream by winning the Masters in 2011 but there’s another tournament closer to his heart that carries just as much significance.
The 28-year-old from Johannesburg has won nine tournaments around the world during his professional career but would love nothing more than to win his national South African Open Championship at Serengeti Golf Club this week.
Schwartzel, who came closest to winning this event in 2005 when finishing in a tie for second behind Tim Clark, believes he’s ready to add his name to an illustrious list of winners that includes the likes of Retief Goosen, Tim Clark, Trevor Immelman and three-time record tournament winner Ernie Els.
“The SA Open is definitely one of the events I want to win in my career,” said the World No.33, who has not won a tournament since slipping on the Green Jacket more than 19 months ago.
“When you look at the players who have won this championship in the past, it would be an honour and a privilege to see my name alongside theirs on the trophy.
“South Africans have obviously got a great record in the event, so hopefully this year it can be my turn to give the home crowds something to cheer about.”
Schwartzel will be joined at the Serengeti Golf & Wildlife Estate by former PGA champion and European Ryder Cup hero Martin Kaymer, who heads to Ekurhuleni on the back of a top-ten finish at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
Kaymer has won a European Tour title in every season since 2008, but he is yet to enter the winners’ enclosure so far this season and, with just next week’s World Tour Championship remaining, the German will be keen to keep that run going.
Kaymer is currently in 24th place in the Race to Dubai, and will be hoping to take home the lion’s share of the €1million prize fund as he seeks to climb into the all-important top ten.
Elsewhere, Hennie Otto will bid to become the first player since Immelman in 2004 to defend the title.
“It’ll be nice to go home,” said the 36-year-old. “I grew up near the Serengeti, so I feel right at home there. It hasn’t been a good year, what with my back injury, but hopefully I can find something special.
“I’m sure I’ll be drawing on my memories of the victory. It was on my bucket list, so it was great to tick it off. There are some great names on the trophy, so it was a real honour just to put my name alongside them. Nobody can take it away from me.”
South African Open Championship
Serengeti Golf & Wildlife Estate, Johannesburg
Thursday November 15 to Sunday November 18
Par-72; 7,761 yards
Hennie Otto (-14)
Most wins: 3 (Ernie Els 1998, 2006, 2010)
Lowest score to par: -24 (Ernie Els 2006)
Did you know?
The South African Open Championship is one of the oldest national open golf championships in the world. Since 1997, the Sunshine Tour’s flagship even has been co-sanctioned by the European Tour.
Schwartzel and Kaymer are joint favourites at 15/2, but we like the look of four-time winner this season Branden Grace at 10s. Fellow South African George Coetzee is 11/1, while Henrik Stenson is 12/1. In the 20s you will find Thomas Aiken at 22/1 and Jaco van Zyl and Garth Mulroy both at 25s. Visit 888sport.com for more prices.
Thursday: Sky Sports 2 from 9am
Friday: Sky Sports 2 from 9am
Saturday: Sky Sports 3 from 10.30am
Sunday: Sky Sports 3 from 10.30am
Like our Facebook page for all the latest golf news, or you can tweet us @Golfmagic.