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Branden Grace has some thoughts about who’s representing South Africa at Olympics

Branden Grace knew he was about to deliver a take.

“I’ll probably be getting a little bit of grief for this,” Grace said Thursday prior to LIV Nashville, where he asserted that countrymen and Stingers GC teammates Dean Burmester and Louis Oosthuizen should be representing South Africa in the Paris Olympics and not the two players who qualified, Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Erik van Rooyen.

“In my opinion,” Grace continued, “these are the two guys (Burmester and Oosthuizen) that should be representing South Africa out there this year, just by what they’ve won, what they’ve played, where they’ve played, how they’ve performed, and not just in the last five months, but probably the last year or so, if not longer.”

Burmester and Oosthuizen ranked third and fifth, respectively, in LIV’s individual standings through eight events. Burmester has a win at LIV Miami and three other top-10s while also winning twice on the DPWT late last year and tying for 12th at this year’s PGA Championship. Oosthuizen owns a pair of runner-up finishes, plus two DPWT wins of his own in late 2023 and a solo second at the International Series Oman back in February.

Bezuidenhout has three top-4 finishes worldwide this year, including a runner-up at the American Express and T-4 at the Memorial. Van Rooyen broke through for his first PGA Tour title last fall and has three top-10s on Tour this year while making cuts at the Masters and PGA.

At Nos. 40 and 67 in the Official World Golf Ranking, respectively, Bezuidenhout and van Rooyen finished the qualifying period, which ended after last week’s U.S. Open, as South Africa’s top two ranked players.

The 60-player Olympic field is determined by the world rankings. Countries get up to two representatives, though if a country has more than two players ranked inside the top 15, it can take up to four players.

Grace has another idea for qualification.

“I think that’s maybe a good call of maybe each country picking or trying to get their own solution on how they get the criteria right for guys to qualify, things like that,” Grace said. “It’s definitely a way forward. But the system at this stage, that’s not very accurate. We all know that. We all talk about it, week in and week out.”

Here is what the initial 60-player field will look like for the Olympic men’s golf event at Le Golf National.

Oosthuizen was then asked for his thoughts. It’s worth noting that Oosthuizen has withdrawn his name for Olympic consideration in each of the last three Summers Games, starting with Rio in 2016 when golf returned to the Olympics.

“I’m probably the wrong person to talk to,” Oosthuizen explained. “I think I’ve said this before, years ago when golf became a sport in the Olympics. I grew up with the four majors being your main events, and I don’t really see the fit of professional golfers playing golf in the Olympics, to me. It was never – I had the opportunity to go to one of the Olympics and I pulled out at the end. … At that time, I think it was close to a major and that was my main focus always, majors, so the Olympics didn’t fit into my schedule that year.

“Looking back at that, I think it would be a nice thing to have on your CV that you could have represented your country. I’ve represented my country in World Cup and in Presidents Cup before, but yeah, look, the system is what it is. I think we’re all higher up on the world ranking than we are right now, or we should be. But I hope the boys play well and that they perform well, and it’s still going to be a strong South African team playing.”

Burmester added a bit of levity to the discussion.

“Christiaan and Erik are going to do South Africa proud, and they’ve also played some great golf in their own right, which is something, but to comment on that, I think Louis and I definitely look like Olympians, first of all,” Burmester said. “Just got a really bad paint job. But we’d fit in there, I think, us and the swimmers and the 100-meter runners.

“But yeah, it would be an honor obviously to go to the Olympics and represent your country. I think it’s basically the field we have, and those two guys are going to have that opportunity, so it’s super special, and we can only wish them well.”