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Show of strength

South African duo can pick themselves up in Malaysia, says Rob

Rob Lee Posted 12th April 2012 view comments

Bubba Watson's first Masters' victory may not be his last.

Augusta National suits a certain type of animal and Watson certainly fits that mould.

I felt that the tournament could well belong to one of America's long-hitters - guys like Watson, Bill Haas, Gary Woodland, Nick Watney and Keegan Bradley can strike high-raking iron shots into the greens - and so it proved.

Driven: Oosthuizen's power off the tee should stand him in good stead in Malaysia

Driven: Oosthuizen's power off the tee should stand him in good stead in Malaysia

No-one has ever questioned Watson's skill or shot-making ability and it all came together at Augusta.

He was consistently hitting drives that were raking past the camera positions, travelling miles down the fairway, and as a result he was able to attack the greens as much as he dared.

When you can hit a mid-iron into 15 or a wedge into 10, as Watson did in the play-offs, it makes life an awful lot easier; plus, as a left-hander, he was able to cut the ball from right to left with far more control than most right-handers could draw it.

Quite simply, when Oosthuizen is on his game he drives the ball as well as anyone in the world.

Rob Lee
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The only question mark hanging over Watson concerned his temperament: would he be able to hang on mentally in the big-pressure situations? His run on the back nine in the heat of battle answered that question emphatically.

Watson admitted afterwards that he was nervous on every single shot - if that's true, then he handled himself very well indeed.

If he can manage his nerves and game like that in future years, he is definitely going to have another crack at winning the Masters.

Rekindle

For quite some time it looked as though South Africa might be toasting back-to-back victories as Louis Oosthuizen threatened to follow in the footsteps of 2011 winner Charl Schwartzel.

Oosthuizen had led the week before at the Shell Houston Open and he didn't have a good final day, eventually finishing behind Hunter Mahan and Carl Pettersson.

But he rallied over the first three rounds at Augusta and it may have been that sitting just off the pace suited him better than leading. Either way, it was incredible to see him hole for albatross at the second. It catapulted him into the lead and at that point I thought 'maybe this is going to be his day'.

Having played so well only to lose that play-off to Watson, I wonder if he'll be able to get himself up for this week's Malaysian Open.

The difference in the time change - not to mention the heat and humidity - will make it extremely difficult for both Oosthuizen and Schwartzel (who finished the Masters in 50th spot) to pick themselves up after their respective disappointments.

But that's the life of a professional golfer - that's what you are expected to do - and those two know what's expected of them.

Someone who drives the ball well in Malaysia is going to challenge and, given the relative strength of the field, you have to think that each of the South Africans will be high up on the leaderboard if they can empower themselves to play.

Quite simply, when Oosthuizen is on his game he drives the ball as well as anyone in the world.

This week's Malaysian Open field includes Simon Dyson, who is an Asia-specialist; he seems to relish the heat and humidity and while I don't think Augusta suits his game, a lot of courses in Asia certainly do, so don't rule him out.

Martin Kaymer is also in attendance after making his first cut at Augusta; the German has dropped down to seven in the world rankings now, behind Watson, Hunter Mahan and Steve Stricker. He's got to rekindle his form and a win in Malaysia would be the ideal tonic to get him back on track.

Tricky

Another European, Luke Donald, should fare well across the pond in the RBC Heritage tournament at Hilton Head Island.

He narrowly missed out on winning last year's event to Brandt Snedeker and now has three-top three finishes in as many visits to Hilton Head Island, a course that suits his game exceptionally well.

This is a tee-shot golf course - you must get yourself in position off the tee because there are a lot of dog-legs where you can't see the proper half of the green if you are on the wrong side of the fairway.

Stray a little and eventually it will catch up with you - it's that tricky. Factor in the wind, because it's right on the coast, and there is plenty of potential for a big number or two.

It doesn't play long so if Luke can manoeuvre his ball into a position where he can have a go at the greens, he must have a chance of winning.

This would be a great time for Donald to come back after a disappointing week at Augusta. Even though he finished well last year, I honestly believe that Augusta isn't his type of course. He's not the longest hitter in the world and ultimately that counts against him.

Ricky Barnes has got some form at Hilton Head Island, with two top-six finishes under his belt, as has Ernie Els - a player I'd love to see go well here.

Els didn't quite make it into Augusta but in previous weeks he was there or thereabouts, firstly at the Transitions Championship, then the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Houston Open.

Overall, Els appears to be playing better golf so I just wonder if he can put that Masters disappointment behind him and continue the curve in an upward direction; I certainly hope so.

The field also includes Padraig Harrington, whose form has been very encouraging of late and Jason Dufner, who started so well at Augusta but then faded away; Henrik Stenson also tees it up but I can't see him making much of a mark unless he decides to ease back off the tee.

Rob's Sky Bet Tip

Nicolas Colsaerts is learning to be a consistent performer on the European Tour and it wouldn't surprise me if he had a good week in Malaysia before he attempts to defend his China Open title.

If you feel this is the South African time of year, then Ernie Els might be your man in the RBC Heritage. The huge pressure that was on his shoulders - namely getting into the Masters - has now gone and maybe he can pick up from where he left off in the previous weeks. It would certainly be great to see.

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