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Immelman local favourite for SA Open

In the sometimes fairytale world of professional golf, Trevor Immelman's return to the Sunshine Tour for next week's South African Airways Open at Erinvale seems to have a happy ending written all over it.
The young professional will be playing his first tournament in South Africa after a watershed 2002 on the European Tour in which he finished 14th on the Volvo Order of Merit and where he is currently lying fifth in the new year.

More significantly, he will be returning to his childhood home and an Erinvale layout that was once his home course. So it seems that not even the brothers Grimm could have penned a better script leading up to the start of the second oldest Open in the game

"It's very exciting to be playing at home again. My whole family was born and bred in Cape Town," he says.

Immelman arrived in South Africa on December 29 after spending Christmas with his family, most of whom are now based in the United States, and has generally been taking it easy.

His coach, Claude Harmon - son of legendary swing guru Butch Harmon - arrived this week for them to begin their final preparations to ensure, "I peak at the right time."

Armed with the confidence of 2002 and his local knowledge of Erinvale, Immelman is certainly capable of living up to his billing as one of the biggest names in a field including 1999 British Open champion Paul Lawrie, former European number one Lee Westwood and rising English star Justin Rose.

"I've played this course many times. I started playing it when it opened up, so I know it well."

Immelman recently got his first look at Erinvale following a two-year absence from its fairways, and admits the picturesque par-72 Gary Player-designed layout, nestled amongst the impressive Helderberg mountain range, has not changed too much.

"The main change has been on the greens. They used to have bent grass greens, and now they are poa greens. That makes them slightly different to putt on. But the entire course is in fantastic condition."

With adequate rains over December, the rough has grown to typical Open standards and the first Gary Player-designed course to host a South African Open is expected to provide a stern test for the field.

"I think it will be a good week," says Immelman. "I don't think you'll see scores lower than 64 or 65. They will probably stretch out the course quite a bit. I think 68 or 67 will be a really good score out there. It won't be playing easy. If somebody shoots a 64 they will make up a lot of ground."

The pre-qualifying for the championship will take place on Tuesday, when over 400 golfers will take to the fairways of the King David Golf Club, Rondebosch Golf Club and Strand Golf Club for a place in the main draw.




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