Aiken to sledge the elite?
Johannesburg - The most elite group in Thursday's opening round of the Joburg Open at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club is undoubtedly the 10:40 tee-off on the East Course comprising defending champion Charl Schwartzel, Ryder Cup star Darren Clarke and Sunshine Tour Order of Merit runner-up Thomas Aiken.
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And there's also no doubt Aiken, the lowest-ranked player of the three-ball, aims to make it a highly entertaining round of golf, even if it means a flurry of sledging will be involved.
"It's going to be great fun playing with Charl, we're great friends and there's going to be a lot of banter, maybe even some chirping. It will be nice if we can sledge each other because we're great rivals on the course and great friends off the course.
"The sport needs a wildcard. Tennis had John McEnroe, golf had Tony Johnstone - how does he commentate without swearing? - and Lee Trevino. The spectators need to see the relaxed side of the game, not just stiff professionals not showing any emotion. There is lots of emotion out there, we just tend to hold it in," Aiken said on Wednesday in semi-serious vein.
Aiken not only raised the taboo subject of sledging in golf, but even dared to dream about winning big on the European Tour.
"I definitely want to win on the European Tour this year and I hope it's a big one. I feel like I can win any one of the tournaments, it just depends on when it's your week and hopefully my week will be a big one," the ebullient 27-year-old said.
The Johannesburg-born golfer also had praise for the way the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club has managed to unfurl such an impressive course despite all the rain in Gauteng in recent times.
"Considering all the rain, the course is holding up really well, and the fairways are in phenomenal condition. Royal have done a great job, the course is in superb condition thanks to all the people out there with their squeegees," Aiken said.
The world number 132 has had a number of top-10 finishes in the last three years on the European Tour, so he knows his first title is not far off.
"I've been extremely consistent the last couple of years and I feel any week I play that I have a chance to win.
"It's all about sinking putts and not putting too much pressure on yourself. If the putts drop, then hopefully I'll be standing with the trophy at the end of the day," Aiken said.
For Aiken, 2011's goal is to make it into the top 50 of the world rankings.
"Ideally, I'd like to get into the top 50 because then you get invited to the majors and I feel my game is suited to the majors. Whenever I've played in them, I've done well," said Aiken, who finished eighth in the 2009 Open Championship.