Els Set to Go Again in South Africa


European TourThe European Tour wraps up its five-week stint to start the 2006 season this week with the South African Airways Open, one of the oldest events on tour.
This tournament dates back to 1893, albeit as an exhibition. Next to the British Open, this is the oldest national championship in the world. This event is co-sanctioned by the European and Southern African Tours.
Last year, hometown favorite Tim Clark fired a 6-under 66 in the final round to win the South African Airways Open for the second time in his career. Clark finished
the event at 15-under-par 273 for a six-shot victory over Charl Schwartzel and
Gregory Havret.
The South African grew up near Durban Country Club, where last
year's event was held, and played this course several times in his youth.
Clark forged a four-way tie for the lead with a 68 in the third round and
carried that momentum into the final round. He tallied his first birdie of the
day at the par-5 third and began to break away from the pack with a birdie
at the par-4 fifth. He added another birdie at the par-5 10th to
distance himself even further from his competitors. Clark picked up another
birdie at the 14th and birdied each of the last two holes for a convincing
Gary Player is a 13-time champion of this event. Other multiple winners
of this event include: Bobby Locke (9), Sid Brews (8), Ernie Els (3), Tim
Clark (2) and Trevor Immelman (2).
Player and Locke hold the record for most consecutive wins at this tournament with five. Player won five straight from 1965-69, while Locke captured five in a row from 1937-40 and 1946.
At age 15 in 1977, Wayne Player, Gary Players's son, led the qualifying round with a 65. Then, at the first hole of the championship at Royal Johannesburg, he holed a 3-iron shot for an albatross two.
Tony Johnstone set the tournament scoring record of 267 in 1993, breaking the previous mark of 272 set by Bobby Cole in 1974, Player in 1981 and Wayne Westner in 1991.
George Fotheringham holds the record for largest margin of victory when he recorded a 20-shot win over Jock Brews in 1914.
This is the first year that the event will be held at Fancourt Hotel and Country Club Estate on the Links course. Fancourt hosted the epic 2003 Presidents Cup which ended in a tie when darkness stopped a sudden-death playoff between Tiger Woods and Ernie Els after the third playoff hole.
When Tim Clark won in 2002 he became the first qualifier in the events history to
go on and win the title. The European Tour continues in three weeks at the
inaugural Royal Trophy in Thailand.