Erik van Rooyen will have his hands full with more than just the social media fallout from his moustache on Thursday when he tees off in the Sentry Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course at Kapalua in Hawaii on Thursday.
In perhaps the most stacked field in the game, he will be up against all four of the major champions from last year, six other major champions, and 29 other players who all, like him, won on the PGA Tour during the 2020-21 season.
Van Rooyen’s moustache, which rivals former Australian cricketer David Boon’s, made its appearance during his return home to South Africa over the Christmas season, and, while the jury is still out on its attractiveness, there is little doubt that he will have the kind of start to 2022 that will set up expectations for his year.
With Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, PGA champion Phil Mickelson, US Open winner Jon Rahm and Open champion Collin Morikawa being joined by major champions Stewart Cink, Bryson DeChambeau, Lucas Glover, Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas in the field, that alone will provide Van Rooyen with a benchmark – no matter how rusty everyone might be at this early stage of the year.
Two other South Africans made it into the field with Van Rooyen who won the Barracuda Championship: Branden Grace won the Puerto Rico Open in February last year to return to the winner’s circle and set off a good year, and Garrick Higgo won the Palmetto Championship in June on just his second start on the PGA Tour.
They don’t have any unsightly facial hair competing for attention with their golf games. Grace has been sailing under the radar for a while, but he will like to take his chances in a tournament guaranteeing him four rounds of action to start his year well. Higgo slowed down in his breathless rise to fame during the last months of 2021, but the undoubted talent that saw him win twice on the European Tour and once on the PGA Tour will no doubt begin to show itself again very soon.
If you want to follow the action on television, it will involve some early mornings and/or late nights: Coverage on SuperSport channel 213 starts at 1am on Friday 7 January.