Olazabal hails South Africa golf talent, says Spain's newest crop is struggling

Jose Maria Olazabal
Getty Images
Jose Maria Olazabal, at the Tshwane Open, is hoping the new crop of Spanish golfers can emulate the latest generation of successful South African players.
PA Sport

Series: European Tour

Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 | 3:44 p.m.

CENTURION, South Africa -- Jose Maria Olazabal is envious of the production line of golf talent coming out of South Africa.

The Spaniard, who so memorably captained Europe to Ryder Cup victory last year, is in South Africa this week to play in the European Tour's inaugural Tshwane Open.

While Spain continues to search for players to build on the success of Seve Ballesteros and Olazabal himself, South African golfers have had no such problems following in the footsteps of Gary Player.

South Africans have won majors in each of the last three years, with Louis Oosthuizen winning the 2010 British Open, Charl Schwartzel prevailing at the 2011 Masters and veteran Ernie Els pipping Adam Scott to win last year's Open.

"There are a lot of great players, no question," Olazabal said on Wednesday. "For whatever reason, this country is able to deliver great players.

"To be honest, the level here is much better than in Spain. It's true that for a while we had great players in Spain, but we are struggling to see a new generation coming through," he added. "But you have a lot of great players, major winners, in this country. In a way, I envy that."

The course at the Copperleaf Golf and Country Estate has been designed by Els, whose grandfather, Ernie Vermaak, used to live on the land. Olazabal has been impressed by it, but admits the distances (the course measures 7,791 yards) required have left him a little concerned.

"It's a great course but it's also very long, even though we're not off the back tees all the time," Olazabal said. "The front nine is particularly long.

"I'm struggling with my driving and, with the golf course being as long as it is, you need to drive it well," he added. "But hopefully I can find something over the next few days."

The Tshwane Open, which is co-sanctioned by southern Africa’s Sunshine Tour, is the sixth European Tour event in South Africa this season, and the local players in the field will be hoping to make it a fifth win.

Schwartzel took the honors at the Alfred Dunhill Championship, Oosthuizen won the Volvo Golf Champions, Richard Sterne triumphed at the Joburg Open and, most recently, the Africa Open was won by Darren Fichardt.