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Golf | SA

Branden Grace © Gallo Images

Black Knight praises SA golfers



Gary Player has hailed the performances of South African golfers in 2012, with Ernie Els claiming his fourth Major title and Branden Grace winning four times on the European Tour.

South Africa's greatest ever golfer, who bagged nine Majors in his illustrious career, was impressed with both players.

“Branden Grace goes along and wins four tournaments. That was unbelievable,” Player said on Sunday at Zimbali, in Durban, where he was hosting the Gary Player invitational.

He also praised Louis Oosthuizen who has risen to sixth in the global rankings this year, most notably losing out in a playoff to American Bubba Watson for the Masters title.

“Louis Oosthuizen is ranked sixth in the world at the moment and has a good chance to win the tournament in Dubai this week [he finished fifth, one shot behind Charl Schwartzel]," Player said.

“Charl Schwartzel has had a bit of a problem with his injuries, but it's wonderful to see our guys flying the flag for our dynamic country.”

The highlight of the year for Player was Els claiming his fourth Major at the Open Championship at Royal Lytham and St Annes in July.

“I was getting so worried about Ernie. At one stage he was lying 65th in the world, and I thought 'a man with this talent'... he was having trouble with his putting, then he went to the belly putter and that changed everything for him."

Player noted in particular the way the Big Easy played the 72nd hole, which he birdied to ultimately seal the win over Australian Adam Scott who faltered on the back nine.

“Watching the British Open was interesting. He came to the last hole and his course management was brilliant," Player said.

"He'd been hitting an iron off the tee every day and so had Adam Scott. Most players had.

"Ernie came to the last and said to himself, 'If I birdie this hole, I have an outside chance of winning. The man (Scott) is four shots ahead with four holes to go'.

“He took the gamble, it came off and he birdied the hole, and Adam Scott made a mess of the last four holes, but particularly the last hole. He came to the last hole and he had to go with a driver as Ernie did, or stick to his plan with an iron.

“He took a three wood – the worst thing you can do.”

Player believed Scott had choked under pressure.

“But when you're under pressure and you're folding – basically choking if that's the word I can use – you make mistakes.

"We did have sadness in our hearts for Adam Scott, because that's terrible and he'll never live that down in his life.

“I saw that happen to Lee Trevino and Tony Jacklin. Tony Jacklin never played well again. I saw it happen to Ed Snead and we saw Jean van der Velde. It ruins their lives.

“You can't help but feel sorry for them.”

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