SA’s Masters hopes rest on King Louis

    2018-04-04 13:34

    Cape Town - Ernie Els at the Open in 2012. After this week, that’ll remain as the last time a South African won a Major.

    QUIZ: Can you name the Top 10 finishers in the Masters since 2000?

    Sorry for the pessimism, but in golf it’s the numbers and not the fairytales, that count.

    There are five Saffas in the field this week for golf’s most hyped-up, romanticised and spoken about event, the Masters. The Azaleas are in full bloom and Magnolia Lane mentions are already upward of 100.

    As the years pass, it’s becoming harder to remember exactly where you were when you saw Louis Oosthuizen lose to Bubba Watson in Masters playoff (it was 2012) or Branden Grace’s untimely reload off the 16th tee at the US Open at Chambers Bay (it was 2015).

    South Africa is blessed with a number of talented golfers who can win at the elite level, many already with a Major tucked away, but another grand victory is not on the cards, at least not this week. Not at Augusta where it’s easy to quantify the reasons behind winners and take the guesswork and patriotism out of the equation.

    Working through the Saffas in “contention” and you are quickly left with one horse in the race.

    One pedigreed horse but racing against Bubba Watson (two-time winner in 2018 and multiple Masters winner), Justin Thomas (FedEx Cup winner and coming into form), Jordan Spieth (fast becoming a Masters stalwart) and Rory McIlroy (chasing the grand slam and a winner in 2018). And Rose, and Rahm too.

    While the field is incredibly strong, there hasn’t even been a mention Tiger Woods’ return yet, some of the guess work on a potential winner is already done for you.

    There’s no ways Trevor Immelman is repeating his success of 2008 - oh what might’ve been for Trevor had he stayed injury free. There’s also virtually 0% chance of Dylan Frittelli winning on debut - it’s only been done once before.

    That leaves Branden, Charl and Louis.

    Next to go is Branden Grace. There’s a reason he’s performed so well at the US Open and PGA Championships (four top 10 finishes since 2015) and not so well at Augusta. He’s birdie-machine when he gets the putter warmed up but he’s also a gritty boxer-type, who fares well in the wind and when the rough is up. He’s got one of the lowest ball flights on tour - exactly the opposite of what is required to win at Augusta. He’s a non-runner this week.

    Fans of Charl Schwartzel, and there are many, will be hoping for another come from nowhere win like in 2011 or at least a late back nine surge like last year. Except, that’s what last year was – a result from nowhere. He’s got no form to speak of and despite him fulfilling the key requirement of knowing the course well, there’s not a lot left in the ‘pros for winning’ column this week. Realism suggests he will do well to make the cut and then work his way to a top 25 finish.

    That leaves just one - King Louis.

    Oosthuizen has the make of a Masters winner; he is good off the tee, solid with his second shots and can tame the greens if in the mood.

    He’s also got Masters on the mind and regularly says it’s the one he desperately wants after that infamous wedge from the trees from Bubba denied him in 2012.

    The downside is that he has little form heading into the week and hasn’t really changed since he completed his career grand slam of Major runner-ups last year. He’ll need to raise his game - as he’s done at Majors in the past - if he’s to be in contention this week.

    At 59/1, he’s worth a dabble but only punt your small change because you’re placing that bet on patriotism and hope rather than hard, cold facts.

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