Fourty-eight-year-old local hero Mark McNulty returns as defending champion after the crafty veteran canned a 20-foot par save on the 72nd hole last year to edge out young Englishman Justin Rose for his 16th European title.
Rose will be back in 2002, however, where he will join the likes of Paul Lawrie, Miguel Angel Martin, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, all of whom are in search of the first-place prize of nearly $114,000.
Goosen, of course, will take the spotlight.
Coming off his best-ever season ' which saw him win the money title in Europe as well as the U.S. Open ' the South African native will be looking to win his homelands premier event for the second time. He first championed in 1996.
Els, on the other hand, has already made a legend of himself at the Open.
He won in 1992, 96, and again in 98, when he titled at this same venue, the Country Club.
Ironically, the last time these two men both played in the same week was in November, when they teamed for a huge victory at the WGC-EMC World Cup in Japan.
Now, they will be meeting again. But this time, theyll be competitors.
*This year will mark the 15th time The Country Club has hosted the South African Open, making it the longest-standing venue for the event. Legends Bobby Locke, Bob Charles and Gary Player have all won the tournament at this course.
*Speaking of Player, he is still remains the all-time king of the South African Open; and with 13 titles between 1956 and 1981, no one is going to knock him off anytime soon.
*Bells Whisky gets kudos this year even before the tournament starts. Until mid-December, the event was without a title sponsor and in danger of cancellation However, Bells came in at the last minute, picking up sponsorship and saving the tradition-laden event.