Golf in 2010: SA’s sixth major winner

22 December 2010

South African golfers provided many highlights in 2010, but none more than Louis Oosthuizen, who scored an extraordinary seven-shot victory in the British Open at Saint Andrews in July.

“To win an Open Championship is special, but to win it here at Saint Andrews is something you dream about,” he said afterwards.

Very quickly, the golfing world learnt about the South African who goes by the nickname of “Shrek”, and he certainly won many fans with his smiling, humble demeanour.

Major winners

By winning The Open, he joined Bobby Locke, Gary Player, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, and Trevor Immelman as South Africans who have had their names engraved on major trophies.

At the end of March, Oosthuizen had secured his first European Tour victory in the Open de Andalucia de Golf in Malaga. It came only a week after he narrowly missed out on the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco. He had led heading into the final round, but ended up settling for second.

Oosthuizen’s achievements were recognised by the Laureus World Sports Awards in December when he was named as a finalist for the World Breakthrough of the Year. He was the only South African to earn a nomination in any category.

Lee-Ann Pace

On the Ladies European Tour, Lee-Anne Pace enjoyed a wonderful year and became the first South African to capture the Order of Merit. She also won the Players’ Player of the Year Award after receiving the most votes from her peers.

By topping the Order of Merit, Pace earned herself a valuable 10-year Tour exemption.

She won an astonishing five times, in the Deutsche Bank Ladies Swiss Open, the S4C Wales Ladies Championship of Europe, the Finnair Masters, the Sanya Ladies Open, and the Suzhou Taihu Ladies Open.

Sapa quoted the legendary Gary Player as saying: “I wish she was my daughter.”

Ernie Els’ return to form

Meanwhile, while Louis Oosthuizen enjoyed a career-best year, his mentor Ernie Els returned to the form that made him a long time world top-five-ranked golfer, and with that form came victories.

In mid-March, he celebrated his first victory in two years when he conquered the Blue Monster and Doral to win the World Golf Championships-CA Championship by four shots from fellow South African Charl Schwartzel.

Just two weeks later, he was back in the winner’s circle after a two-shot victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

Asked how it felt to win two tournaments in a row, Els said: “It’s an amazing feeling, really. It can be one of the toughest games, cruellest games in the world, and then you sit here, it’s one of the nicest games.

The Big Easy wasn’t done winning yet and later in the year added the PGA Grand Slam of Golf at Royal Port in Bermuda to his long list of career titles. He had previously won it in 1997.

Two-time winner

Charl Schwartzel, too, was a two-time winner. His victories were scored early in the year in South African-based European Tour events.

In early January he claimed the African Open at the East London Golf Club with a 20-under-par total of 272. A week later he captured the Joburg Open by a sensational six shots after shooting a seven-under-par 64 in the third round and a five-under 66 over the last 18 holes.

It was his fifth European Tour win and the third of those that had been achieved in South Africa.

In 2011, Schwartzel and Oosthuizen will contest the US PGA Tour.

Tim Clark’s breakthrough

For many South African golf fans, one of the moments they most savoured in 2010 was the victory of Tim Clark in The Players Championship.

For many years Clark had been a consistent performer on the US PGA Tour, but inexplicably had never broken through to win. It took him 206 tournaments to do so, but it was a thrilling and deserved victory went it finally arrived.

Addressing the media afterwards, Clark said: “Behind the majors this is the biggest tournament and the best field out there, and you’re always going to look at the history of the majors, but this is certainly … if there’s a number five this is it, but this is just a huge honour and everything that comes with it. Yeah, it’s a very proud day.”

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