Eight from SA in US Open
BRANDEN Grace became the eighth and final South African to qualify for the US Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco this week, joining his boyhood heroes Ernie Els and Retief Goosen in the field.
Grace earned his maiden start at the season's second major by maintaining his place in the top 60 of the world rankings, which were released yesterday.
Grace, who has won three times on the European Tour this season, including the Volvo Golf Champions at Fancourt, where he beat Els and Goosen in a play-off, is ranked 54th in the world.
"What a week it's going to be. I just can't wait to get out there," Grace said when he heard he was in the field.
Another South African rookie at the tournament is the 69th-ranked George Coetzee, who earned his spot by securing one of 11 places at a qualifying tournament in Walton Heath, England last month.
Coetzee has yet to win on the European Tour, but he is a multiple winner on the Sunshine Tour and a man who could be one of the surprises of the week.
"There are those four events that I care most about (the majors) and this is one of them," Coetzee said.
"I've only played in The [British] Open Championship once and although I wouldn't say that just playing the US Open is a dream come true, it is a start and a chance."
Besides the United States with 86 players in the 156-man field, only Australia (9) and England (10) have more players than South Africa.
The other South Africans in the field are 2007 Masters champion Trevor Immelman, 2010 British Open winner and 2012 Masters runner-up Louis Oosthuizen, 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and 2010 Players Championship winner Tim Clark.
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy is out to defend the title he won last year, while the likes of a resurgent Tiger Woods and an in-form PGA Tour money leader Jason Dufner will be among the favourites for the prestigious title.
Els and Goosen have each won two US Open crowns and have set the bar for the likes of Grace and Coetzee to follow.