Bezuidenhout’s form compelling ahead of SA Open

When form is running as rich as it is with Christiaan Bezuidenhout, it’s difficult to look past him as a potential winner of this week’s South African Open Championship being played from Thursday at Gary Player Country Club at Sun City.

Not only did he win the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek last week, he is also the highest-ranked player in the field after jumping to 41st on the Official World Golf Ranking list. And he looked every inch a world-class player as he weathered wind and a tough course in last week’s final round.

Of course, winning back-to-back in golf is not as easy as it is in some other sports, and it would not be too surprising to see Bezuidenhout not be in contention over the weekend. However, such was the control with which he played to win last week, it would be equally unsurprising to see him back in the upper reaches of the leaderboard. He clearly has remarkable powers of concentration and reserves of skill, all of which will be necessary to win a championship all South African golfers dream of winning.

One of those who made the effort to travel back home from the United States to pursue that dream is a man who could easily be the one who could get his name on the trophy is Dylan Frittelli.

Fresh from his share of fifth in the Masters, and a man who has won in the US on the PGA Tour, as well as locally and on the European Tour, he set his sights on the SA Open early, forgoing the chance to play at Leopard Creel last week and opting instead to take his time to recover properly from his trans-Atlantic flight instead, the better to cope with the rigours posed by Sun City.

He has played a few times in the Nedbank Golf Challenge on the Gary Player Country Club layout, and he identifies ball-striking as an attribute required for success around it. With his own distance off the tee improving recently, as evidenced by his performance at Augusta National, he is clearly in a position to fulfill a childhood ambition and lift the trophy.

Youngsters Wilco Nienaber and Jayden Schaper have provided enough evidence recently that breakthrough victories are not far off. Nienaber came so close two weeks ago in the Joburg Open, and Schaper had a shot at victory last week at the Alfred Dunhill Championship. Both let their grips slip with just one bad hole under pressure, and will have internalized those lessons.

There have been three English winners in the last six editions of the SA Open: Andy Sullivan, Graeme Storm and Chris Paisley won at Glendower Golf Club in 2015, 2017 and 2018. Of the English players in the field this year, veteran Richard Bland showed the best form at Leopard Creek last week, while Ross McGowan is a recent European Tour winner as well as experienced in South African conditions from a couple of years of campaigning on the Sunshine Tour.

But South Africans of undoubted world class has reclaimed the title recently, with Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace winning the last two titles at Randpark Golf Club.

It is not difficult to see Bezuidenhout extending that stretch this week.

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