Blogs & Opinion


Richard Sterne can win in all countries and conditions, says Rob Lee

Rob Lee Posted 13th February 2013 view comments

If South Africa's Richard Sterne hadn't had his career interrupted by injury, we would be talking about him in the same breath as compatriots Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel.

The 31-year-old's 2010 and 2011 seasons were blighted by a case of arthritis in his back, but he is in glistening form now and secured his sixth European Tour title on Sunday with a seven-stroke win at the Joburg Open.

Sealed with a kiss: Sterne celebrates winning the Joburg Open

Sealed with a kiss: Sterne celebrates winning the Joburg Open

And if his body holds up, Sterne has the talent and maturity to be a very big player over the coming years, as while four of his European wins have come in South Africa - two Joburg Opens, one Alfred Dunhill Championship and a South African Open - he can transmit his game anywhere.

It was no surprise that the Pretoria-born player put in such a fantastic performance in Johannesburg as not only does he know the conditions, but he also played extremely well in the Dubai Desert Classic a couple of weeks back, where he finished second.

Sterne has the talent and maturity to be a very big player over the coming years as he can transmit his game anywhere.

Rob Lee
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Sterne lost out by three shots to Stephen Gallacher on that occasion, when the Scot holed his second shot at 16 for an eagle, but there was no stopping him in his homeland.

He headed into the final round level at the top of the leaderboard with fellow South African Trevor Fisher, Jnr, and while his opponent slipped away, he played a beautiful, mistake-and-bogey-free round of golf to secure the title with a score of 27-under-par.

Sterne, who only dropped one shot all week and accrued 26 birdies and an eagle over the course of the four rounds, is a small guy in a game increasingly dominated by big men, but he hits the ball a long way, a lot like Oosthuizen.

And I see no reason why he won't be a factor in the WGC-Accenture Matchplay next week and, hopefully, the Majors.

Consistent

Ricardo Santos was named 2012 European Tour Rookie of the Year and has begun 2013 in groove, too; the Portuguese now has four top-15 finishes from his six events after his third-place at the Joburg Open.

The 30-year-old, who won in Maderia last season, is incredibly consistent and has already made enough money to keep his European Tour Card for 2014 - but he will be looking to push on because, while new to elite level golf, he is no spring chicken.

However, a man eight years Santos' senior, Felipe Aguilar, has also started the campaign well, finishing ninth, third and third in his last three tournaments.

The Chilean's form shows how quickly your fortunes can change in golf and that with a bit of confidence under your belt and perhaps a slight alteration in your technique, someone unheralded can compete at the top of the standings.

I tipped George Coetzee to win in Joburg, meanwhile, and he only just let me down, finishing in a tie for third with Santos and Aguilar, but I think it is a cast-iron certainty that he will pick up a trophy this season.

So take heed punters, if you keep on betting on Coetzee, you will eventually be rewarded.

Underachievement

This week's PGA Tour event is the Northern Trust Open and despite being the defending champion, Bill Haas has something to prove.

The American won the Tour Championship and, subsequently, the FedEx Cup at the back-end of 2011 and then edged out Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley in a play-off at the Riviera Country Club in 2012.

I expected Haas to push on after that, but he only recorded one top-15 finish for the rest of the season, a real underachievement for someone of his calibre.

He has begun this term brightly - taking sixth place at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and ninth at the Farmers Insurance Open - but I'm not sure he wants it enough.

Haas seems to have this attitude of: 'If I play well, great, but if I don't hey-hoe'; unlike a lot of players it doesn't seem to kill him if he isn't playing very well.

You'll never get an ulcer playing like that but if you want to get to the top and stay there you have to strain every sinew.

ROB'S SKY BET TIPS

Garth Mulroy (16/1) at the Africa Open

Charl Schwartzel (20/1) at the Northern Trust Open

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