Johannesburg: Of the seven South Africans playing in the Nedbank Golf Challenge, Charl Schwartzel is clearly the man in form following his four-stroke victory on Sunday in the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.
And few would put it past Ernie Els, a three-times champion at Sun City, putting up another top show over the Gary Player Country Club course from tomorrow.
And then there’s Louis Oosthuizen, winner of the Volvo Golf Champions at Durban CC back in January but dogged by injury ever since, which explains why he had to withdraw from Leopard Creek last week.
But the 2010 British Open champion is anything but pessimistic about his chances of picking up the $1.25million winner’s cheque come Sunday afternoon.
“The back is fine. I had a facet block two weeks ago and I’ve got no pain at the moment, which is great and I feel really strong,” the 31-year-old said yesterday after a practice round on the immaculately groomed course.
“As a kid I always watched the Nedbank on TV. I watched Frosty (David Frost, champion in 1989, 1990 and 1992) all those years back, and remember Pricey and Tiger going at it (in 1999 when Nick Price beat Woods in a thrilling playoff). The first time I played it was in 2010.
“And then I played again last year and had a good chance in the last round. It’s great to be back again, playing in front of the home fans. I’m happy to be pain-free, I’m upbeat and it’s definitely one of the tournaments that I want on my CV.”
Branden Grace, meanwhile, says he is “stoked” to be making his debut.
“I missed out (getting into the 12-man field) by one spot last year, so I’m happy to be finally here. What a week! The tournament is just going from strength to strength with the 30-man line-up, and I’m so looking forward to it, especially since the game is feeling good.”
THIS WEEK’S 30-MAN LINE-UP
Charl Schwartzel, Ernie Els, Louis Oosthuizen, Branden Grace, Richard Sterne, Darren Fichardt and Dawie van der Walt (all Rsa); Justin Rose, Luke Donald and David Lynn (England); Henrik Stenson (Sweden); Sergio Garcia and Gonzalo Fernando-Castano (Spain); Gary Woodland, Kevin Streelman, DA Points, Peter Uihlein and Ryan Moore (Usa); Brendon de Jonge (Zimbabwe); Martin Kaymer (Germany); Thomas Bjorn and Morten Orum Madsen (Denmark); Jamie Donaldson (Wales); Matteo Manassero and Francesco Molinari (Italy); Joost Luiten (Netherlands); Victor Dubuisson (France); Thonchai Jaidee and Thaworn Wiratchant (Thailand); Peter Senior (Australia). - Cape Times