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Els leads SA players chasing Masters glory

The 2014 US Masters tees off at the famed Augusta National golf course in just under two weeks.

America's Horton Smith won way back in 1934 when the tournament was played for the first time and started the tally of 57 American wins.

To say the Americans have dominated this event is as much of an understatement as to suggest that Jack Nicklaus was a fairly good golfer and has done quite well at the Masters.

The Golden Bear may as well challenge for the naming rights after his six outright wins (a record), his 22 top 10 placings (a record), his four runner-up finishes (a record, albeit shared), he has made the cut 37 times (a record) and sits just seven tournaments behind his good friend, Gary Player, as the person to have played the most Masters tournaments (Nicklaus has played 45 and Player called it a day after 52).

However, you may well be surprised when I tell you that the country that sits behind the Yanks as the next most successful at winning oversized green jackets is in fact South Africa.

South Africa has a reputation of punching above its weight class and this applies very much to golf in general and the Masters specifically.

In total the Rainbow Nation can lay claim to five Masters titles and to two in the last six years - a record shared by the dominant Americans.

So while we don't yet know what the final 2014 Masters playing field looks like, here's what we can reasonably assume.

Ernie Els, the unofficial "captain" of the Boks will be there. And he won't be there to make up the numbers. Oh no sir. He will be gagging at the chance to get out there and finally seal the deal after a spate of close-run Masters outings. He's been second twice and has six top 10 finishes in his 19 previous outings. An urban legend doing the rounds at one stage was that he knows this course so well, he famously told new ground staff one year where to park the mowers.

Els's form is not exactly scintillating but he's hungry for his first green jacket. On his day, there's no player in the world who will squeeze past this giant of a golfer. He's my dark horse.

I've always been a Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen fan and both of them will be there.

In fact, Schwartzel is a realistic title hope. He is a genuine world-class player now and his game is poised for the serious big time. I wouldn't mind if he smiled a bit more or showed us that in fact he was having fun - lately he's been a bit of a Captain Grumpy and that does nothing for the game or your game.

Oosthuizen probably still wakes up some nights screaming and trying to work out why he didn't win in 2012, especially after that ridiculous albatross on the 526m par 5 second hole in round four. If he can nail another albatross, bring a red hot putter, and arrange for Bubba Watson to be kidnapped, then he's got a great chance.

Branden Grace will make the starting field at Augusta and after last year's excellent debut when he finished tied 18th, he'll be looking for another good performance. And knowing Branden, he will be looking to improve on his 2013 finish. Is he a title contender? I'd have to say no, not this year.

Tim Clark will also be at Augusta after he finished tied 11th last year. Tim is like a sniper with his putter (ask me, I've played a round with him) and that is a valuable quality to bring to the Augusta greens. Add to that his fine iron play and it's not hard to see why he cannot be ignored. Last year a final round 73 robbed him of a much stronger placing. My big concern with Clark is his troublesome elbow injury which has meant he's only played a few events so far this year.

Trevor Immelman won the 2008 Masters and as such is guaranteed lifetime entry into the event. Trevor has played in 11 previous Masters events and has always done well at Augusta. He has got four top 20 placings, including a top five in 2005 to add to his 2008 green jacket. That being said, I would describe his chances as slim, very, very slim. In his favour are his steely determination and his wise head on young shoulders, but I don't think he'll be in the winner's circle come the evening of day four at Augusta.

At this stage it seems unlikely that Richard Sterne or George Coetzee will qualify. The Texas Valero Open has teed off and is the last chance to score points to move up the world rankings. Both our boys sit outside the top 50 and neither of them are in action at San Antonio in Texas.

The Augusta layout and the Masters event combine to out-psyche even the best players in the world. And yet the South Africans fly almost 30 hours to get there, they smile politely, they mumble something in Afrikaans, and then they end up winning the event. Don't be surprised if they do it again on 13 April.

Jeremy Harris is the sports anchor at 94.5 Kfm on the Breakfast Show. He is a keen golfer and plays off a 6 at his home club, Arabella. Follow him on Twitter @jeremyharris55.

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