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Best South African Golfers

Ranking the All-Time Greatest Golfers from South Africa


Who are the best South African golfers, the all-time greats from South Africa? Here is our ranking of the Top 10 golfers from that country, which will be updated as developments warrant.

1. Gary Player

Central Press/Stringer/Hulton Images/Getty Images
Nine majors, 24 total PGA Tour wins, numerous wins in Europe before and after the establishment of the European Tour, more than 70 wins on the precursor to the Sunshine Tour in South Africa, nearly 20 wins on the PGA Tour of Australasia, a great Champions Tour career, more than 150 professional wins worldwide. He's Gary Player!

2. Bobby Locke

Bobby Locke 1957 - top 10 golfers from south africa
Central Press / Getty Images
A name that probably isn't that well known anymore, but "Ol' Muffin Face" is one of the all-time greats. A 4-time British Open winner in the 1950s, he was one of the rare international players in the 1940s who played a lot on the USPGA. Unfortunately, he won so much (13 times from 1947-50) that resentment built and he eventually left America in a dispute over PGA Tour playing commitments. But he still shares the PGA Tour record for largest margin of victory (16 strokes). From 1947-49, Locke finished in the Top 4 in 34 of the 59 PGA Tour events he played. He had 38 wins in South Africa and more than 20 in Europe. Gary Player has called Locke the greatest putter of all-time.

3. Ernie Els

Ernie Els - best south african players
Ross Kinnaird / Getty Images
Els followed in Gary Player's peripatetic footsteps by traveling the globe to pursue his golf career. For most of his pro career, Els has played pretty much everywhere: America and Africa and Australia and Asia and Europe. And he's won everywhere. Els has two U.S. Open titles and two Open Championship crowns; through July 2012, he had 19 USPGA Tour titles and 27 wins on the European Tour, plus numerous other wins on the South African, Asian and Japan tours.

4. Retief Goosen

Retief Goosen
Photo © Rich Hodge; used with permission
The Goose's first win in the United States was the 2001 U.S. Open. Three years later, he added another U.S. Open. Goosen also has wins on the Sunshine Tour, the Asian Tour and the European Tour (more than a dozen through 2010), to go along with his seven official PGA Tour victories (through 2010).

5. David Frost

Frost is another of the great putters in golf history, and he's the only South African other than Player, Locke and Els to have double-digit victories on the USPGA Tour. Frost won 10 times on the PGA Tour. Frost also won on the Sunshine Tour, in Europe and in Japan.

6. Rory Sabbatini

It's a tough call putting Sabbatini ahead of major winner Charl Schwartzel, but Sabbatini is the older, more-established player, who has a longer, strong body of work behind him. Unlike the other players on this list, Sabbatini's full-time career has been spent almost entirely on the USPGA. He has no wins on other any tour. But he does have six wins (as of 2012) on the USPGA. On the world's top tour, he's been a consistent performer and strong presence over an extended period of time.

7. Charl Schwartzel

Schwartzel vaulted up this list when he won the 2011 Masters, his first major and his first official USPGA Tour victory. But Schwartzel, 27 years old at the time, was already building a case for himself. He had won five times on the Sunshine Tour, three of those events cosanctioned by the European Tour. And his three other European Tour victories through early 2011 included big wins at the Dunhill Championship and Open de Espana.

8. Louis Oosthuizen

At the time Oosthuizen won the 2010 British Open, he had but a handful of other victories on pro tours. Since then, he's added a few more on both the European and Sunshine (South African) tours.

8. Trevor Immelman

Injuries have interrupted his career, but he won the 2008 Masters and prior to that had one other win on the PGA Tour, along with victories in Africa and Europe.

10. Harold Henning

Henning won twice on the USPGA and once on the European tours, along with more than 15 wins in South Africa. His PGA Tour victories were in 1966 and 1970, and his Euro win was in 1981. Then he had several productive years on the Champions Tour in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
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