Henrik Stenson, of Sweden, watches his tee shot on the eighth hole during the third round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Oak Hill Country Club, Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013, in Pittsford, N.Y. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Johannebsurg - Jaco Van Zyl says he hopes to improve on last year's performance when he tees up for the Africa Open Golf Challenge which starts at East London Golf Club on Thursday.

“I've always played nicely here and had good times. In the last two years I've had some good results, so hopefully we can improve by one spot from last year,” Van Zyl said on Wednesday.

“I'm hitting it really nicely, about as well as I can. I battled a little bit with the flat stick last week, so I've got a new one in the bag this week and I'm hopeful.”

The 34-year-old has made the cut in all five of the 2014

European Tour events he has entered, including a 12th-place finish at the South African Open and a tie for 22nd at last week's Joburg Open.

He won three times on the Sunshine Tour last year, but has not yet won a European Tour event.

Meanwhile 2013 champion Darren Fichardt said he was in good spirits ahead of his title defence at the Golf Challenge.

“I'm feeling good about defending my title this week,” he said.

“Walking around today brought back some good memories of crucial putts that I made and solid shots that I hit. It's always nice to defend, because it means that you won the year before.”

Frenchman Gregory Bourdy and Englishman Robert Rock head up the foreign challenge at the tournament.

“Not many foreigners have won tournaments in South Africa, so I was proud to win the Telkom PGA Championship a few years ago,” said Bourdy.

“It was important for me, because I was the first French player to win here. I think I can win again here, and why not the Africa Open? I have good memories of East London, because I finished second here in 2013.”