Michael Vlismis –
South African golf has now gone 10 Majors without a champion of its own.
It is not the longest time span the country has had to endure a Major drought. But it is frustrating, especially as the emergence of Major winners in Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel suggested these two were going to win many more Majors in the foreseeable future.
The explanations for why this has not happened yet are as numerous as the dimples on a golf ball.
But it is not yet a crisis. The real drought was the 58 Majors South Africans had to suffer through between Gary Player’s last Major in the 1978 Masters and Durban-born Zimbabwean Nick Price’s win in the 1992 PGA Championship.
Ernie Els’s 2012 Open triumph was the last bit of Major glory for South Africa, and he has shown he is quite capable of a late flurry in his career.
So who is next?
It is still hard to look beyond Schwartzel and Oosthuizen. Since his victory in the 2011 Masters, Schwartzel has had seven top-20 finishes in 16 Majors. And following his victory in the 2010 Open, Oosthuizen has had five top-20 finishes in the 15 Majors he has played in, including losing a play-off to Bubba Watson for the 2012 Masters. Injury has kept him out of a few others, but he has started this year well with 19th in the Masters.
Beyond them, Branden Grace is a multiple European Tour winner looking to take the next step up in his career.
But there is no doubt he has Major potential if his putting form can rise to meet his sublime ball striking in the same week.
George Coetzee and even Thomas Aiken could be the next to lift the Claret Jug for this country. Coetzee has finished 15th and 18th in the Open Championship, and Aiken has finished tied eighth and tied seventh in the Open.
Further down the list, Richard Sterne has the temperament of a Major winner, but strangely has yet to make an impact at this level. Tim Clark has had his share of good finishes in the Majors, but he will need an injury-free body to succeed.
Perhaps an easier question to answer is which Major a South African golfer will win next? History says it will be the Open. South African golf’s biggest haul of Major wins has come at the Open, numbering 10 in total. That’s just under half the country’s total of 22 Majors throughout history.
“You just can’t push it in this game,” Schwartzel said last year of his own frustration at not winning as often as he would like.
Whether we like it or not, only patience wins Majors.