South Africa’s “Big Five” – Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Garrick Higgo and Erik van Rooyen – will begin the quest to add only the fourth green jacket to the country’s list of Major triumphs when The Masters tees off at Augusta National Golf Club on Thursday.
To date, Gary Player (1961, 1974 and 1978), Trevor Immelman (2008) and Schwartzel (2011) have written their names into Masters history.
The South African challenge this year represents a tantalising mix of experience and a new generation of stars.
Oosthuizen is the highest ranked South African in the field at 14th in the world and also playing in his 14th Masters. His playoff defeat to Bubba Watson in 2012 is still the closest a South African has come to winning the Masters in the last decade. Oosthuizen has had six runners-up finishes in the Majors – two of which came in a strong Major season for him last year where he finished in the top three in three of the four Majors.
Schwartzel is the only one in the group who has pulled on a green jacket in 2011. Bezuidenhout is playing in his third Masters, while Higgo is making his debut and Van Rooyen tees it up in his second Masters but having had to withdraw with an injury after his first round in 2020.
Bezuidenhout played in all four Majors for the first time in his career in 2021, and made the cut in all four which further strengthens the belief that he is the country’s next Major champion in waiting.
Schwartzel’s form may not be near what he would like it to be headed into this Major, but clearly something about Augusta National Golf Club keeps on inspiring him. In the last five editions of The Masters he may well have missed the cut twice, but he’s also finished third, tied 25th and tied 26th.
Higgo is playing in only the fourth Major of his career and has Gary Player’s endorsement as a future Major champion, while Van Rooyen missed the cut in all three Majors he qualified for in 2021 but has had a solid start to 2022 with a top-five finish in the Dubai Desert Classic on the DP World Tour and tied 13th in The Players Championship.