Els is currently cooped up in Herold’s Bay recovering from an ankle injury, but it is believed the four-time major winner has signed a contract with the Sunshine Tour to be the official ambassador for the South African Open, which will also tie him into playing in the tournament over the next few years.
While the 45-year-old Els may be in the autumn of his career, his presence at the SA Open will be a massive boost for the tournament, especially since the other leading campaigners on the European Tour are unlikely to attend.
The SA Open will be held at Glendower Golf Club in Edenvale from January 8-11, a weekend that falls before the European Tour has its lucrative Desert Swing in Abu Dhabi, Doha and Dubai. Many of the top European golfers are expected to merely extend their holidays by a week, rather than travel all the way to South Africa and then back to the Middle East.
All the top South African golfers should be teeing it up at Glendower, however, with the likes of Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace certainly not minor appurtenances of the tournament. None of that trio has won the SA Open before and all have said how desperate they are to get it on their CVs.
While a victory at Glendower would be a fairytale triumph for any of them, Els will also be hungry for success having not won the title since 2010. If the former world number one does win, it would be his sixth SA Open crown, putting him fourth on the all-time list behind Sid Brews (8), Bobby Locke (9) and Gary Player (13).
Els has already indicated how eager he is to tee it up at Glendower by withdrawing from last weekend’s Thailand Open due to his ankle problem.