Kaymer hunting success at Serengeti
Germany’s Martin Kaymer comes into this week’s South African Open at Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate as one of the favourites to win, but it certainly won’t be an easy task with the likes of Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace and Henrik Stenson forming part of a world-class field.
The former world No 1 etched his name in the annals of history by sinking a dramatic putt on the 18th at Medinah in his match against Steve Stricker to ensure that Europe retained the Ryder Cup.
However, those final-day heroics were a rare highlight in a year that has seen the German struggle, although his form has shown signs of improvement in recent weeks.
“The last few weeks I’ve played really good golf, but it just hasn’t happened so far. I’ve always had one or two holes that have ruined a good score or a good result by the end of the week. Hopefully I can avoid those numbers this week,” he told a press conference at Serengeti on Tuesday.
This week Kaymer and 155 other golfers will be chasing the lucrative winner’s cheque of €158,500 (approximately R1.75 million) and one of the most prestigious trophies in the game.
The South African Open was officially inaugurated in 1903, making it the second-oldest national open in the world and the second-oldest sporting competition in South Africa (behind rugby’s Currie Cup).
In 1997, the European Tour co-sanctioned the SA Open for the first time, and it has remained co-sanctioned with the Sunshine Tour ever since.
The tournament now offers an impressive total prize fund of €1 million, but such an esteemed event has always been able to attract the stars of the game.
“The Nedbank is a great tournament, and so is the national Open. The South African Open came in handy and I have two more (tournaments this year), so it would be nice to win one of those next three.
"But absolutely, you have it on your history books if you have won in South Africa. I haven’t won here… yet. I’ve won in Europe and America and Asia, but I haven’t won in Africa so that would be quite nice,” Kaymer said.
Last year South Africa’s Hennie Otto won his maiden SA Open title at Serengeti as he held off the challenge of Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger by one stroke.
His win continued a remarkable run of dominance by South African golfers in the SA Open since the turn of the century.
Scotland’s Richie Ramsay is the only foreign player to have lifted the trophy since the year 2000 after he clinched the title in 2009 at the Pearl Valley Golf Estate in Paarl.
The Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate opened in 2009, and the Nicklaus-designed course plays host to the SA Open for the second year in succession.
The relatively young course has been forced to deal with hailstorms and inclement weather in the past few weeks, but it remains in fine condition and should present a difficult test for Kaymer and his colleagues this week.
“I was very surprised that the fairways and greens are fantastic. For a course which is that new it played really nice, but you’ve got to stay on the fairway, otherwise you can’t be aggressive and go for the flags.
“You can almost see them (the slopes) on the greens, so it’s quite tricky. You really have to place the ball in certain areas in order to have a chance to make birdie,” the former PGA champion said.
Kaymer will be partnered by South African stars Jbe Kruger and Schwartzel for Thursday and Friday’s rounds, and will be desperate to get off to a positive start.
The German is just one of many European Tour players gunning for glory this week, but the South Africans will be looking to continue a proud record in their national open.
The first ball will be struck at 6:15am on Thursday, and those wishing to come and watch the event may do so for a small fee of R10 each day.
Live coverage will commence on SuperSport from 1:30pm for the first two rounds, and from 12 noon on Saturday and Sunday.