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Golf | SA

European Tour champs geared for Africa Open



A strong cast of European Tour winners will lead a formidable international challenge when the €1-million Africa Open tees off in Buffalo City in February.

SSP Chowrasia from India, Robert Rock from England, Pablo Larrazábal from Spain and England’s David Horsey, winner of the 2010 BMW International Open and 2011 Trophéé Hassan II, are among the two-time European Tour champions chasing glory in the European and Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned event at East London Golf Club from 14-17 February 2012.

The field is further strengthened by Spain’s Rafael Cabrero-Bella, who beat Lee Westwood and Stephen Callagher for the Dubai Desert Classic title in 2012, as well as Nelson Mandela Championship winner and Volvo Golf Champions runner-up Scott Jamieson from Scotland and Denmark’s Thorbjørn Olesen, who won the 2012 Sicilian Open and tied for second at the recent Abu Dhabi Championship.

With a two-year European Tour exemption and a boost to the Race to Dubai rankings at play, the field has also drawn a few other familiar European faces who aim to improve on previous performances.

After a tie for fifth last year, Scotland’s Alastair Forsyth will go all out for a podium finish, countryman Craig Lee will shoot to better on his tie for eighth in 2012 and the trio of Emiliano Grillo from Argentina, England’s Matthew Baldwin and Sweden’s Magnus A Carlsson are hunting a better finish than their joint 10th place finish last year.

Thailand Open champion Wood is hunting a maiden European Tour and will draw on his experience from 2011. It’s been nearly six years since Markus Brier lifted the Volvo China Open title. The Austrian tied for eighth two years ago and would love to re-ignite his career with a victory in Buffalo City. Meanwhile James Morrison tied for fourth in 2010, the same year he won the Madeira Open. Hungry to return to the winner’s circle, the Englishman will also be hunting a solid start to his 2013 season.

But to win, the European champions will have to pull out all the stops if they hope to rewrite the history books and break local stranglehold on the Africa Open.

Shaun Norris lifted inaugural title at the Fish River Sun Country Club in 2008 and two-time US Open champion Retief Goosen became the first champion at East London Golf Club when the event moved to Buffalo City a year later.

In 2010, the Africa Open gained European Tour co-sanctioned status and Masters champion Charl Schwartzel held off a spirited challenge from compatriots Thomas Aiken, Jbe Kruger, Trevor Fisher Jnr, Chris Swanepoel and England’s James Morrison to lift the title.

After beating Spain’s Manuel Quiros and Chris Wood from England in a play-off for victory in 2011, Open champion Louis Oosthuizen collected back-to-back titles in 2012 with a gritty final round performance and a two stroke victory over fellow South African Tjaart van der Walt.

Tickets to this year’s Africa Open are available at the gate. Entry is free for children under 18 on Thursday and Friday and R5 for Saturday and Sunday. Adults also enter for free on Thursday and Friday and tickets cost R25 per day on the weekend.

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