Time for Sterne to stake a claim

TIME TO SHINE: Richard Sterne is lining up a good showing at the Africa Open this weekPicture: GALLO IMAGES -
TIME TO SHINE: Richard Sterne is lining up a good showing at the Africa Open this weekPicture: GALLO IMAGES –

Africa Open this week offers chance to regroup

RICHARD Sterne heads to East London for this week’s Africa Open needing to get something going, and he knows it. In a sense, his two rounds of level par on the weekend of last week’s Joburg Open also reflected the sense that Sterne feels a bit stuck at the moment.

He has missed six cuts on the PGA Tour. His focus is still on making a breakthrough there, but he is in South Africa looking for inspiration.

“I need to find my game again and there is no better place than here to start,” Sterne said.

He has targeted the Africa Open, which tees off at the East London Golf Club today, as one of the steps in this process. He will also be teeing it up in the Tshwane Open at Pretoria Country Club thereafter.

Sterne loves the classic East London Golf Club layout, and in 2009 came close to this title when he shot a brilliant 61 in the third round. But a closing 73 ended his challenge as Retief Goosen took the win.

Sterne always walks a very fine line between being off his game and playing sublime golf.

He is never very far away from being brilliant again.

“If I’m hitting it well I feel like I can do just about anything with the golf ball.

“But the problem is it’s been a while since I’ve had that feeling. It’s starting to come right though.

“The ball is starting on line again.

“I feel like I’m getting back on track with the way I’m hitting it.”

But Sterne is at that point in his season where he needs a break.

“It’s a very nervewracking year for me. I’m going to try to play in America all year, but I’ve missed six cuts in a row there.

“It’s been a horrendous start for me and I need to keep my card somewhere. So I’m under a bit of pressure with that. I’m in a bit of a tricky situation.”

The Africa Open field includes an intriguing mix of established stars in George Coetzee, Englishman Andy Sullivan, India’s Jeev Milkha Singh, European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke and Italian Edoardo Molinari, as well as the in-form group of Garth Mulroy, Jaco van Zyl, Tjaart van der Walt and Jacques Blaauw.

They’ll head to a golf course that is one of the classics of South African golf. While East London Golf Club lacks the length of the modern layouts, it is armed with a coastal wind that has in the past forced the suspension of rounds in this event.

It’s a course filled with history. Bobby Locke, Gary Player, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen have all won titles here.

True to its name, the Africa Open has not been won by a foreigner since its debut in 2008.

Thomas Aiken, who won with his wife Kate on the bag last year, is not back to defend as he will be playing in the world Golf ChampionshipCadillac Championship in Miami.

-Michael Vlismas

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