26 November 2012
While world number one Rory McIlroy won the European Tour’s season-ending World Tour Championship in Dubai on Sunday, South African golfers finished third, fifth and sixth in the Tour’s biggest event.
To put a cherry on top of the South African golfers’ achievements, the European Tour also announced on Sunday that South Africa, with six tournaments, will host more Tour events than any other country in the forthcoming season, including the Volvo Golf Champions.
The first of those events, the new Nelson Mandela Championship presented by ISPS Honda tees off place at the Royal Durban Golf Club from 6 to 9 December and is the opening event of the 2012/13 season.
But back to Dubai. Johannesburg-born Justin Rose was second. Charl Schwartzel claimed third alongside Luke Donald, Louis Oosthuizen placed fifth and four-time winner on the Tour this season, Branden Grace, was sixth.
If anyone had been unsure, those results signalled that the guard had been changed, with no Els or Goosen in the mix to challenge them, even though Els won The Open Championship earlier in the year.
It was also a nice Christmas present for the top three South Africans, who between them pocketed €812 491 (R9.34-million) in the big money event.
Most prolific winners
The victory was McIlroy’s fifth of the year, tying him with Grace as the most prolific winner of 2012 on the major tours.
The 24-year-old South African’s sensational rise has been one of the stories of the year. After beginning 2012 ranked 265th in the world, he has finished it in 34th place.
He also became the first European Tour Qualifying School graduate to record four victories in a season the year after his graduation and joined an elite list of players to win four times in a single season: Seve Ballesteros, Ernie Els, Nick Faldo, Miguel Angel Jiminez, Martin Kaymer, Bernhard Langer, Lee Westwood, Tiger Woods and Ian Woosnam.
Highest ranked South African
Oosthuizen, at number seven, the highest ranked South African player in the Official World Golf Ranking, showed increased maturity in 2012 and his consistency was improved.
He won the Africa Open and the Malaysian Open, and finished runner-up in the US Masters after a playoff. He also finished second in the Deutsche Bank Championship and Singapore Open, third in the Shell Houston Open, and fourth in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
Schwartzel’s season was hampered by an injury, but a strong finish in Dubai will, along with his friend Louis Oosthuizen’s success, no doubt spur him on to greater things.
Six South Africans finished the year in the top 100 in the world rankings: Oosthuizen, in seventh, is followed by The Open champion Ernie Els, in 20th. Schwartzel occupies 28th place, Grace 34th, George Coetzee 49th, and Tim Clark, who is returning from injury, 97th.
Coetzee, who is yet to win on the European Tour, bears watching in the new season. His year included a runner-up finish in the South African Open, along with six other top-six finishes.
Just outside the top 100, Retief Goosen is in 105th place. Thomas Aiken is ranked 110th and Rory Sabbatini 123rd.
The successes of South African golfers, the continuing production line of quality players from the Sunshine Tour and the increased investment of the European Tour in South Africa underline the fact that the sport in the country is going from strength to strength and more great things can be expected from it.
SA EUROPEAN TOUR EVENTS 2012/13
6-9 December 2012
The Nelson Mandela Championship presented by ISPS Handa Royal Durban GC, Durban
13-16 December 2012
Alfred Dunhill Championship Leopard Creek CC, Malelane
3-6 January 2013
Volvo Golf Champions Durban Country Club, Durban
Joburg Open Royal Johannesburg & Kensington GC, Johannesburg
Africa Open East London GC, East London
28 February-3 March
Tshwane Open Copperleaf Golf & Country Estate, Centurion
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