JOHANNESBURG - In four weeks’ time the Nedbank Golf Challenge will be underway at Sun City.
It will be day two today of the tournament, which is now one of eight elite tournaments with a minimum prize fund of $7-million (about R94m) forming part of the European Tour’s new Rolex Series, being played at the Gary Player Country Club.
Until the first tee off time on November 9 the course will be closed to the public, allowing the staff at the club to get the par-72 layout and one of the best courses in the country, in prime condition for “Africa’s Major”. The last rounds were played there on Wednesday and yesterday.
Among the players chasing the glory on November 12 will be defending champion Alex Noren, 2008 champion Henrik Stenson, 2013 winner Thomas Bjorn and confirmed South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Brandon Stone.
The 23-year-old Stone qualified after winning the South African Tour Order of Merit, the second youngest man to do so after Charl Schwartzel. This will be his second appearance at Sun City after debuting last year.
“Cementing my spot in the tournament is an incredible achievement,” he said. “It’s nice to represent your country abroad but it’s even better representing your country at home. As a South African player the support you get there is always great.”
Oosthuizen, with 13 titles worldwide, will make his seventh appearance at the tournament and is hoping to improve on his best finish of fourth in 2012.
“I’m always very excited to tee it up at the Nedbank Golf Challenge and I can’t wait to tee it up again this year," he said. “Playing in front of a home crowd is always fun and it all adds up to make this one of the best weeks on tour.”
Noren, who has been in sublime form over the last two years, registering wins at the BMW PGA Championship, Scottish Open, European Masters and British Masters, said, “Lifting the trophy in South Africa last year was the perfect end to a memorable season. I had tried to get into the event for many years so to win on my first appearance was pretty special.
“I’m really looking forward to returning as defending champion. It’s a fantastic event which obviously holds many great memories for me.”
Other Race to Dubai top 10 players who could tee it up at Sun City in a few weeks’ time are Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Ross Fisher and Francesco Molinari. Other big stars on the European Tour South African fans are likely to see include Tyrrell Hatton, Thomas Pieters, Matthew Fiztpatrick, Lee Westwood and local heroes Branden Grace and Dylan Frittelli.