SA golfers rise in world rankings

In the world rankings on Monday, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen and Ernie Els maintained the status quo, while Tim Clark inched up one place to 14th and Rory Sabbatini settled in 23rd.

Sabbatini surged into the top 20 from 71st early in the season after two superb runner-up finishes in the Sony Open and AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, followed by a phenomenal victory the Nissan Open that also secured him the West Coast Swing title.

But one only needs to look a little further than page one to notice a strong upward surge from the young South African stars abroad.

Although he has only just broken into the top 200, the most substantial move this season comes from Natalian Warren Abery, winner of the 2005 Nashua Masters in February.

The tenacious Abery jumped 198 places from 391st to 194th on the latest rankings, in large due to the ranking points earned for his victory at the Wild Coast Sun Country Club, but also due to a couple of respectable performances on the European Tour so far this season.

In his best performance to date, he claimed a share of seventh in the European and Asian Tours co-sanctioned TLC Classic and picked up handy points when he tied for 11th in the Madeira Island Open.

The second mover and shaker is Charl Schwartzel, who makes his 2006 PGA Tour debut at the Shell Houston Open in Texas this week.

Schwartzel jumped 46 positions and broke into the top 100 when he improved from 143rd to 97th on the latest rankings. The winner of the 2005 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit picked up valuable points during an especially successful summer swing on the Sunshine Tour.

He placed T8 in the Dunhill Championship, T12 at the SAA Open Championship and 10th at the Nashua Masters, and tied for sixth at the Telkom PGA Championship before clinching the title of the season-ending Vodacom Tour Championship at Pretoria Country Club.

Back in Europe, Schwartzel tied for 13th in the TLC Classic and finished fourth in the Open de Portugal.

Other South Africans on the upward slant are Richard Sterne, who moved from 131st to 115th, and Darren Fichardt, improving from 241st to 148th.

If it were anyone else, one may have worried about the fact that former SAA Open champion Trevor Immelman has slipped from 62nd to 82nd. After a strong start to the PGA Tour season, Immelman battled with some back problems and missed the cut in his last four events, but there is no doubt that talented and tenacity will see the Somerset West player climbing towards the top 50 in no time.—Sapa

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