Another barren major year for Africa’s elite golfers
Harare – For the second year running, Africa’s best golfers endured a barren run in their battle for Major titles either side of the Atlantic after their bid for a last-ditch assault to win the US PGA failed at the Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky.
Not since Ernie Els’ sensational comeback win at Royal Lytham, coming from six strokes behind to capture the British Open as Australian Adam Scott self-destructed in 2012, has an African golfer captured one of the four Major golf titles.
It means that the cream of African golfers have now played in nine Major golf championships, starting with the 2012 US PGA championship, and failed to win in one of those big tournaments.
In sharp contrast, Northern Irishman, Rory Mcllroy, who won his second Major title at the 2012 US PGA championship a few months after Els’ triumph at the British Open, has won four Major titles after completing back-to-back Major wins in Kentucky last Sunday.
Els was the best performing African golfer in Kentucky after finishing tied for seventh on 11-under par 273, five shots adrift of Mcllroy, but the South African ace was unhappy after heavy rains, around lunch-time, disrupted the final round with play delayed for about two hours.
By the time Mcllroy made his final putt, to win the tourney, darkness had engulfed Valhalla Golf Club.
“The boys are a bit unhappy,” Els said as he pointed his guns on the organisers.
“It could have been better organised. There were a lots of guys stuck out there on the course without transportation.
“Me and Jimmy Walker were on the 2nd hole and it was coming up to our ankles. The official told us to stay put but we crossed the fairway to get cover under the trees. Then when we heard the hooter, we just walked back.
“I was just talking with my caddie and (Rory Mcllroy’s caddie) JP Fitzgerald; in all our combined years – and that’s a lot of years – we’ve never seen anything like it. You would have hoped common sense would have prevailed, particularly these days when there’s all kinds of technology available to track weather patterns.”
Els’ South Afrcan compatriot, Charl Schwartzel, finished tied for 15th at nine-under par 275, sharing the same position with his South African counterpart Louis Oosthuizen.
Richard Sterne finished tied 36th on three-under par and Zimbabwe’s Brendon de Jonge completed his US PGA championship challenge on two-under par, tied 41st, after his rounds of 70, 70, 72, 70 in Kentucky.
McIIroy won two of the Majors this year with Martin Kaymer of Germany, winner of the US Open, and Bubba Watson, winner of the Masters at Augusta National, taking home the other two but, for the elite of African golfers, it was another barren search for honours.
It was the same story last year, too, when Scott, Justin Rose, Phil Mickelson and Jason Duffner won the Majors.
But the African golfers had impressed, between 2008 and 2012, winning a Major in each of the years, except in 2009, with the South Africans making a huge mark.
Trevor Immelman won the Masters in 2008, Ootshuizen captured the British Open in 2010, Swartzel won the Masters in 2011 and Els, the best of the crop, won the British Open in 2012.
Will the Africans roar back?
There is hope.
Els, at 44, came close to shooting the lowest round in Major golf history in Kentucky on Sunday with his six-under-par 65 just two shots adrift of the 63s that have been shot by Dufner and Woods.
“From what I have been all season long, I’ve not really been on my game,” said Els.
“But I feel that my clubs, the Adams clubs, we really got dialled in now. The putter feels good.”
Schwartzel blitzed his way to a final round 66 last Sunday at the US PGA, which means he has what it takes, and Oosthuizen was also in good touch in Kentucky.
Maybe, just maybe, the Masters offer the African golfers their best chance to break the duck – it’s a tournament they have won twice in the past six years.
Or maybe the British Open, a tourney they have won twice in the past four years, provides the best hope for a continent with 25 major winners – 22 from South Africa and three, all won by Nick Price, from Zimbabwe.