With defending champion Louis Oosthuizen, in-form Charl Schwartzel and Joburg Open winner Richard Sterne pulling out, this week’s Africa Open provides an opportunity for the next generation of South African stars to shine.
East London Golf Club is again the setting for the fifth of six European Tour events played in South Africa - won by Oosthuizen for the past two seasons after picking up his maiden major at St Andrews in 2010.
Now a new breed of South African golfers will attempt to follow in their footsteps in a competition which is yet to be won by anyone from outside the host nation.
One of the players keen to impress is 26-year-old local favourite Jbe’ Kruger, who earned his first Tour win around this time last year at the Avantha Masters.
“Being a co-sanctioned event, it is a big thing in South Africa,” said Kruger. “And the fact that Louis won this after winning the Open makes it even bigger.
“It’s the biggest stretch of the year for the Sunshine Tour, and having the fans behind you definitely helps.”
With thoughts moving to next week’s WGC-Matchplay Championship, Oosthuizen and Sterne have decided to take a break while Schwartzel has opted to play in the LA Open in California.
Rookie of the Year Ricardo Santos will look to build on his impressive start to the season, which has seen the Portuguese finish in the top ten three times in four weeks, while British interest comes in the likes of Robert Rock, Tom Lewis, Nick Dougherty, Golfmagic columnist Gary Boyd and in-form young gun Tommy Fleetwood.
East London GC, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Thursday February 14 to Sunday February 17
Par 73; 6,691 yards
Louis Oosthuizen (-27)
Most wins: 2 (Louis Oosthuizen 2011, 2012)
Lowest score to par: -27 (Louis Oosthuizen 2012)
Did You Know?
South African golfers have won 31 out of the 51 events co-sanctioned by the European and Sunshine Tours.
Kruger has had a couple of top-tens here and looks mighty tempting at 25/1, while in-form Santos and Fleetwood provide good value at 16s and 20s respectively. Young Get on Englishman Eddie Pepperell for your each-way bet at 250/1. Visit 888Sport.com for more prices.
Thursday: Sky Sports 2 from 8.30am
Friday: Sky Sports 2 from 8.30am
Saturday: Sky Sports 3 from 11am
Sunday: Sky Sports 3 from 11am
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