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Monday, December 20, 2010

The Limerick Summary: 2011 South African Open

Winner: Ernie Els

Around the wider world of golf: There really isn't much to report except the LET Q-School results. Maria Verchenova, the Russian player whose swing I looked at a couple of weeks ago, failed to get her card. The big news (at least, as far as this blog is concerned) is that Big Break's Sara Brown finished T9 in cold conditions and snagged her LET card, making her exempt on both the LET and LPGA for 2011. I told you that girl was for real!

Ernie Els holds his national championship trophy
Click the image for the story.

National championships are something special, whether it's the Open Championship (aka the British Open), US Open, Canadian Open, Australian Open, or whatever. The South African Open, as I mentioned yesterday, is the 2nd oldest Open in the world -- right behind the Open. (Granted, the US Open has been played more times and Wikipedia lists it as the older tournament -- 1895 versus 1903 -- but the South African Open was an unofficial event for ten years in 1893-1902.) And this was the 100th South African Open, which gave this edition a little extra shine, so all the top South African players wanted this little Christmas gift for their very own.

And they were up to the task. After being rained out Thursday, a cut to the low 50 and ties (rather than the normal low 65) was made Saturday night and a 36-hole shootout scheduled for Sunday. And leading the pack? Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Louis Oosthuizen, and Charl Schwartzel held 1st, 2nd, and joint 4th respectively, with Els just two strokes up on Goosen.

The weather wasn't done with the tournament, however. Early morning rains delayed play and left the green on the par-3 4th unplayable. As a result, only 34 holes were played, with all players receiving a par on the 4th for each of the final two rounds.

After the first 18 (third round) the Goose had cut Ernie's lead to a single stroke, posting a 63 to Ernie's 64. Oosthuizen also posted 64... and gained no ground whatsoever. (That has to be disheartening!) Schwartzel shot 66, which pretty much ended his hopes of winning. Despite that, the four South Africans held the top four spots on the leaderboard.

Beginning the final 18, Els led by one over Goosen, four over Oosthuizen, and six over Schwartzel. It ended up being a shootout, with Els and Goosen  keeping a comfortable lead over the rest of the field. But even though neither could separate himself from the other, Ernie continued his Grinchy ways by denying Goosen more than a glimpse of the title. Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas to you too, buddy! In the end, the three leaders shot 63s and Schwartzel a 64 to give Els a single-stroke victory over the Goose.

For the record, Tim Clark (who has won the SA Open the last two times it was played at this course) finished T9.

This is the last tournament we'll be seeing this year, despite the date in the title. I'll be glad when the European Tour finally gets their seasons synchronized with the calendar! But the best part of this is that it bodes well for the actual 2011 golf season. The top four finishers will all be PGA players next year although only Goosen is listed to play in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii. However, I'm hopeful this win will encourage Ernie to change his mind and show up.

And if I might be allowed a brief rant, I think Oosthuizen, McDowell, and Kaymer should have been invited. They may not be members (or, in McDowell and Oosthuizen's cases, members at the time) but if you win a PGA Tour event -- especially a major -- I think you should be invited to the HToC. Majors transcend normal Tour events and should be treated accordingly. The PGA Tour keeps saying it wants the best players -- well, here's a great opportunity to throw out the welcome mat. I'm sure Hyundai wouldn't mind!

At any rate, here's the last official Limerick Summary of the year. (Perhaps we'll have an exhibition limerick next week.) We salute Ernie Els's 3rd worldwide victory of 2010 -- a stocking stuffer of a year in anybody's book:
Though the weather outside had been frightful,
Els’ competitive fire was delightful.
But might Santa deduce
Ernie’s gift to the Goose
Crossed the line between friendly and spiteful?

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