No Americans, but an exceptional field will contest the 2010 Nedbank Golf Challenge

by Golfer on

The 12-man field for the 30th Nedbank Golf Challenge was announced in Sandton, and it was clear the group of media assembled for the much-anticipated event were impressed with the quality of players that will tee off in Sun City.

Also present at the announcement was Nedbank’s Andy Scott, who congratulated Tournament Director Alastair Roper and his team for managing to secure the participation of the illustrious names. “For Nedbank, having been involved in some degree with this event since its inception and naming sponsor for 15 years, this has been a great year. Our involvement with The Comrades, then the Nedbank Cup, a premier soccer tournament, and now to end the year with a truly excellent field in Africa’s most prestigious golf tournament, is really gratifying,” he said.

It is easy to make a case for each player being able to win this year’s tournament – and the feeling among the golf media is that this anniversary edition of the tournament will be as hotly contested as any in the past. There is a potent South African quartet made of Ernie Els, who has just won the Glam Slam tournament, Retief Goosen who will be coming off a successful season, Tim Clark who is also in great form, and making his debut in the tournament, Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen. The mouth-watering prospect of these players going head-to-head is enough to ensure record crowds attending this year, but these players will know that they will have stiff competition from other quarters – players that have beaten all of them in the recent past.

Another major draw-card this year is Lee Westwood, currently ranked number two in the world, but the actual number is academic – he has been playing better than Tiger Woods right now, and he is determined to usurp that number one position.

With defending champion Robert Allenby also having enjoyed a highly successful season, he will not be giving up his title without a fight, but he will have his hands full dealing with a group of “young guns” determined to prove that their lofty positions on the World Rankings are justified. Justin Rose, Ross Fisher and Eduardo Molinari, are guaranteed to give a good account of themselves, and Padraig Harrington again joins the elite group having captured three Major titles since his last visit to Sun City. Another player who is no stranger to the Gary Player Country Club is Miguel Angel Jimenez, and although his form at this venue has never been good enough to be in the thick of things come the final round, he can never be discounted. If there is a player that would seem to be outclassed it is Anders Hansen, who earned his invitation by virtue of his stellar performances on the Sunshine Tour. Since the Dane took top honours on the South African moneylist, he has played moderately at best, but that could easily change once he arrives in a country where has enjoyed so much success.

But what of the absence of the Americans? It is no secret that the US players are notoriously loath to travel, and of course Tiger Woods is hosting the Chevron World Challenge the same week on their home turf. Still, it is known that certain Americans would have loved to have been invited, but as the World Rankings now stand, those available simply failed to make the cut. It could be suggested that many of the higher-ranked players based in America felt that they had to accept their invitations to play in the States, as a show of solidarity perhaps needed after another Ryder Cup defeat. The simple solution would be to move the dates of the Chevron event, something that might well happen next year. It was agreed by all the golf scribes at the announcement that to simply include an American for the sake of it, something that did happen in this event’s early days, would do nothing for the tournament’s credibility. This idea would also be frowned upon by the World Rankings committee.

Will this prove be the best ever Nedbank Golf Challenge? It is tough to make that prediction, particularly when the best are playing against each other on a championship course that is consistently considered to the best in the country. Those players familiar with this layout will know that one lapse in concentration can spell disaster, and the first-timers will quickly work this out during their first practice rounds.

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