Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba (left) and Sunshine Tour executive director Selwyn Nathan at the launch of the new venue for the Joburg Open on Wednesday. Photo: Supplied

JOHANNESBURG - Big-time golf is back at Randpark. The club will host the 2018 Joburg Open from December 7-10, in the week that traditionally “belonged” to the Nedbank Challenge at Sun City. 

Darren Fichardt, who won the this year's tournament at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington, which is undergoing upgrades, is expected to be back to try and defend his title, but he’ll get stiff competition in a field that will swell to 240 players, including Louis Oosthuizen.

The 2010 Open champion has already confirmed he will be part of the action. “I’m very excited to be supporting the growth of what is one of the premier tournaments in world golf. I’m looking forward to playing in Joburg again,” said Oosthuizen.

For the first time in South Africa, the event will be tri-sanctioned by three different tours, namely the Sunshine Tour, the European Tour and now also the Asian Tour.

At the announcement of the new venue and date at the Soweto Country Club on Wednesday, it was revealed that R16.5 million will be played for over the four days, with action at Randpark Golf Club taking place on both the Firethorn and Bushwillow courses on the first two days.

“We’re over the moon,” said Randpark general manager Francois Swart. “We made a proposal a couple of years back to try get the Joburg Open to our course, but we needed to renovate and upgrade to get it to the level where it can host a big event, and we’ve done that.

“This is for the members who’ve had to endure four to five years of upgrades on both courses and had to invest their money. I’m delighted I can share this news with them.”

The first two rounds will be shared between the slightly easier Bushwillow course and the tougher Firethorn course, with the final two rounds to be played only on Firethorn.

“We might change a few holes ... Bushwillow’s par-five third might become a par-four, and that sort of thing. We’ll make sure there are some good risk and reward holes, and even driveable ones, and Firethorn’s par-five second will be very interesting; it was designed to test the pros, especially if played off the back tees. We’ll see, nothing’s been decided.”

The tournament will serve as the penultimate event on the Asian Tour schedule and will include 30 Asian Tour players, four amateur invitees, and the remainder will be shared between the European and Sunshine Tours.

Meanwhile, Executive Director of the Sunshine Tour, Selwyn Nathan, also announced that Gary Player was to play a major role in the redesign of the Soweto Country Club, at no cost. New fairways, bunkers, tee boxes, greens and an irrigation system are all planned, with work set to start in the coming weeks.

The Star

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