Johannesburg - South African golfers have shown much impetus ahead of this year’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
Fourteen local players will represent the country and this will see them be part of a star-studded international field that will compete in the event.
The tournament, one of the biggest and most lucrative on the European Tour with a prize fund of $5 million (R66.6 million), tees off at Old Course St Andrews, Carnoustie & Kingsbarns in Scotland on Thursday.
Tops the chart
South African players have made their presence felt on the European Tour, with the first batch of 14 players from different categories having registered to play.
However, there is no guarantee that all of them will get an automatic qualification as they still have to go through the contest’s strict process to become eligible to play.
Branden Grace, who is number 42 in the world, tops the chart of locals who will be participating.
Grace is Mzansi’s only golfer to lift the trophy at the event – he won it back in 2012 when he posted a score of -22 for a total of 266 to beat Denmark’s Thorbjørn Olesen by two strokes.
Since then, South Africans have come close to the trophy, but stumbled at the last hurdle.
Last year saw Richard Sterne and England’s Ross Fisher finish joint second after succumbing to a four-stroke defeat at the hands of Englishman Tyrrel Hatton, who prevailed by -23 for a total of 265.
Before then – at the competition’s inaugural event in 2001 – Ernie Els finished as the runner-up to Scotland’s Paul Lawrie.
Els came second to England’s Lee Westwood two years later.
The large number of local contestants could well inspire one of the home boys to collect the silverware.
South Africa was represented by 12 players at last year’s contest.
The huge interest shown this year by local players is an indication that the championship, which is pitting some of the European Tour’s finest golfers against each other, is being taken very seriously.
South Africa’s Haydn Porteous is on fire on the fairways and brimming with confidence after bagging the D+D Real Czech Masters at the Albatross Golf Course in Prague four weeks ago.
He beat England’s Lee Slattery by two strokes to register a score of under-par 13 for a total of 275.
Porteous will certainly be looking to add to South African glory by bringing home the coveted Alfred Dunhill Links trophy.
Hatton will be attacking the greens as the defending champion.