Erik Van Rooyen of South Africa plays his second shot on the 9th hole during Day One of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in September. Photo by David Cannon

JOHANNESBURG – The SA challenge will be one of the strongest at this year’s Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player as Erik van Rooyen, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Justin Harding, Richard Sterne and George Coetzee have all confirmed their participation in the Rolex Series event on the 2019 Race to Dubai from November 14 to 17.

They add to an already strong local line-up set to gather at the Gary Player Country Club, including South African golf legend and three-time Nedbank Golf Challenge champion Ernie Els, 2017 champion Branden Grace, Major winner Louis Oosthuizen, reigning Sunshine Tour Order of Merit champion Zander Lombard, and four-time European Tour winner George Coetzee.

Van Rooyen and Bezuidenhout are currently ranked eighth and 10th respectively on the Race to Dubai amidst impressive seasons during which both have won their maiden titles on the European Tour.

South Africa's Branden Grace hits his tee shot on the 14th hole during the second round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in July. Photo: AP Photo/Matt Dunham

After several near misses, Van Rooyen broke through with his first victory in the Scandinavian Invitation where he closed with a final round of 64 to hold off European Ryder Cup players Matt Fitzpatrick and Henrik Stenson for the win.

Bezuidenhout made his European Tour breakthrough in the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation where he won by six shots in the face of a strong Spanish challenge led by Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia.

Harding joins them as the third South African to have made his European Tour breakthrough this year when he won the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters. It capped a remarkable run of form that saw him win five times worldwide in 12 months, lifting him to a current ranking of 18th on the Race to Dubai.

Sterne returns to the Gary Player Country Club as a six-time European Tour winner who came close to adding to this when he finished second in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA in January this year, and Coetzee heads to Sun City as a four-time European Tour winner who has been in solid form on the Tour this year with four top-10s.

“I am absolutely thrilled with the strong South African presence we will have at this year’s Nedbank Golf Challenge. To have a legend of the game such as Ernie followed by the current and emerging stars of South African golf is going to make this year’s tournament one of the most memorable for the home crowds. I am looking forward to hosting my countrymen at ‘Africa’s Major’,” said tournament host, Gary Player.

South Africa's Ernie Els tees off from the 6th tee during the second round of the British Open Golf Championships at Royal Portrush in July. Photo: P Photo/Matt Dunham

The Nedbank Golf Challenge has enhanced its status as one of world golf’s elite tournaments this season with an increase in both the first place prize money and Race to Dubai points - the winner of the 2019 Nedbank Golf Challenge will take home US$2.5 million (R37.45m), an increase on the US$1.25 million (R18.72) won by Lee Westwood last year.

The overall prize fund remains at US$7.5 million (R112.38m), with the balance of the 64-player field from second place onwards playing for a US$5 million (R74.92) prize fund.

This year’s tournament also offers an increased haul of Race to Dubai points from 7,500 to 10,000, which places it above what the World Golf Championships tournaments offer. 

African News Agency (ANA)