Major friends target Sun City glory

by Michael Vlismas on
Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen at the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City

Nedbank Golf Challenge. Sun City: Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen showing their support for Movember

It’s the first time Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel are playing in the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City together. They both grew up watching this tournament and marvelling at their South African heroes. And they’re both pacing around a possible victory like a hungry lion in the nearby Pilanesberg Game Reserve.

Oosthuizen hits the fairways of the Gary Player Country Club in sublime form. He hasn’t finished worse than sixth in his last four tournaments on the European Tour. But as good as that is, Oosthuizen is frustrated by the lack of a victory.

“It’s been frustrating because I feel I’m playing a lot better than some of those finishes reflect. But you learn from those and all in all I’m very happy with my form coming into this week,” he said.

“A win here would really end the year on a high for me. I always wanted three wins in one season. I’ve won twice so hopefully I can squeeze another one in this week.” There’s a similar feeling of frustration from Schwartzel, who has struggled with the intercostal muscle injury he picked up at the US Open.

“That put me back a long way. My golf was pretty good before that. Then I created some bad habits in my golf swing to play around that injury and that led to a lot of inconsistency and frustration. But for the first time in a month-and-a-half it’s been pretty much pain free and I’m looking forward to getting the kind of consistency I had in the past. I don’t care who you are, it’s never nice to not play well.”

Both golfers also agree that the winning score should be more modest than in the past few years, with the Gary Player Country Club course primed for a tough challenge.
“I forgot how narrow the fairways are and how thick kikuyu can be here,” said Oosthuizen. “The rough is very thick and you’ll have to drive it straight to give yourself opportunities.”
“You’ll see the winning score be a little worse than it was in the past,” said Schwartzel, who despite his love of golf courses in this kind of bushveld setting admits the course doesn’t entirely suit his game.

“I’ve always loved this golf course but it’s never really suited my fade. You need to be able to draw the ball well here. But with modern technology I can get away with using my three wood quite a bit this week.”

The general consensus already is that defending champion Lee Westwood is an obvious threat. Oosthuizen certainly believes the Englishman is in another class when it comes to ball striking.

“Lee is one of the best ball strikers in the world. He hits his driver so straight and he’s a great iron player. He gives himself so many opportunities for birdies. You’ll probably see him hit his driver a lot more than other players this week because he’s so confident with that club.” And Justin Rose is another favourite, especially after his final round 62 in the Dubai World Tour Championship last Sunday.

“Coming off that 62, his confidence will be right up there. He also had a great Ryder Cup. But there’s nobody in the field who you can say had a really bad year. Everyone had good seasons.”

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