Els, Goose: gem in bad shape
Durban - Major winning South African duo Ernie Els and Retief Goosen have criticised the state of the Durban Country Club course as it prepares to host this week's South African Open for the event's 100th edition.
"The sad part is that this is our gem of a golf course in South Africa. This is our old lady. This is our St Andrews and you would like to see the course looking its best," world number 12 and four-times winner Els said on Wednesday.
"I think, under the circumstances, they have probably done the best that they could. I heard they only laid the grass after the football World Cup (in July) so that didn't give them much time," the three-times major winner added.
Twice U.S. Open champion Goosen, 17 in the rankings and with two SA Open victories to his name, though winless since March 2009, was slightly more forthright in his views ahead of the one million euro tournament which has had several hosts.
"Unfortunately the course is a disappointment. It is not in the sort of shape we are used to seeing, but it is going to be the same for everybody.
"You are going to have to be on the top of your game from tee to green because the greens are going to be difficult to putt on so ball striking is going to be very important.
Only twice since 2000 have non-South African golfers won the event, Sweden's Mathias Gronberg (2000) and defending champion Richie Ramsay of Britain, which Els put down to his countrymen's pride.
"It's not often that a foreigner wins the South African Open. We are very proud of the tournament. We play it as if it is a major so you will see the South African guys play very hard this week," said the 41-year-old, whose last SA Open victory came in 2006.
Also trying to wrestle the title away from Ramsay are British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, and 2010-11 European tour money list leader Pablo Martin of Spain.