King Louis can’t wait for East London

Louis Oosthuizen can’t wait to get back to the East London Golf Club for January’s Africa Open.

Defending champion Louis Oosthuizen can’t wait to get back to highly regarded East London Golf Club for the Africa Open in early January.

The 2010 Open champion heads a world-class field in the fifth edition of an event co-sanctioned by the Sunshine and European Tours.

Oosthuizen, who splits his playing schedule between the European and US PGA Tours, had a flying start to the year when he holed out from eight foot at the first extra hole in a play-off against England’s Chris Wood and Spain’s Manual Quiros to lift the Africa Open title in January.

After that Oosthuizen disappeared into the pack for a while, but his form picked up in October when he finished fifth at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, fourth at the PGA Tour’s McGladrey Classic and third at the Iskandor Johor Open.

Now Ranked 38th in the world after two more solid top 10 finishes in November, the 29-year-old Oosthuizen is confident of mounting a strong challenge in his title defence.

“Nothing beats playing and performing at home and I really enjoyed wining at home at the start of the season with all my family there and against a very strong field,” he said.

“I’m going back to East London with some very positive memories and I’ll put everything into my title defence. Hopefully I can finish the job in regulation play this time.

Oosthuizen said that he enjoyed the risk and reward element of the East London Golf Club layout.

“It’s the kind of golf course that really challenges your game when the wind is up, but it also offers great opportunities for low scoring when you can keep it in play,”he said. “I struggled with the putter all the way, but I was rewarded for some great tee shots and solid iron play.”

“When the wind is up the course demands a lot of shot-making, which I like. Sometimes you are just battling to survive but then you hit a great approach and you are rewarded with a birdie or even an eagle. Hopefully the wind will blow because I think that’s the way the golf course is meant to be played.”

Also playing this year and certain to also be welcomed back is the 2009 African Open winner Retief Goosen

If the world number 53 gets his putter working, as he did in the final round of the Africa Open in 2009, he could be pretty much unstoppable.

Coming from four behind in 2009, the 42-year-old Goosen fired a final round seven-under-par 65 that included eight birdies to hold off Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke and Michael Hoey and compatriots Branden Grace and Darren Fichardt for his 37th career victory.

“But for that three-putt at the final hole, my putting was virtually faultless that day,” Goosen recalled.

“I’d just turned 40 when I won and I’ve always felt that winning in East London put the spark back into my career.”

In the last 12 months, Goosen has slipped out of the top 50 in the world golf rankings due to a succession of injuries that limited his playing opportunities, but a recent resurgence to form suggests that the Major winner will soon be back to his winning ways and must be hoping East London fires him up again..

Oosthuizen and Goosen can expect a strong local and international challenge when they vie for repeat success in the New Year.

The Africa Open’s position at the start of the season not only makes it a sought-after event for local professionals seeking the opportunity to win instant membership of the European Tour, but also offers a tremendous incentive to established Tour members to make an early impact on the 2012 Race to Dubai and 2012 Ryder Cup points standings.