The Stage is seton December 2, 2010
The 30th Nedbank Golf Challenge finally gets underway – record ticket sales, an immaculate golf course and a bumper program of events guarantees that the greatest golfing show on the African continent will not disappoint.
At the lavish pre-tournament Pro-Am dinner held in the Superbowl, there was plenty of light-hearted banter between the players and VIP guests, and comedian David Kau kept guests in fits of laughter. But there was an unmistakeable sense of tension among the players who realise that for all the hilarity, as the curtain rises it is all about business, and the fierce competition that will precede the champion being crowned on Sunday.
Defending champion Robert Allenby was obviously bullish about his chances of retaining his title, and world number one Lee Westwood was relishing the prospect of again doing battle on a course which he knows well – he first played here in 1998, but as the on-course bookmakers continue to do brisk business prior to the first tee-time (10.10 am), it is fair to say that everyone of the dozen stars have a reasonable chance of being crowned champion.
A major talking-point prior to the start of the tournament has been the condition of the golf course; although perfectly groomed, less than usual rainfall figures have resulted in the fearsome rough being not nearly as penal as in past years, but the firm, slick greens will still ensure that the players will have keep their wits about them. “We are expecting the scores to be quite low,” said Senior Tournament referee Dennis Bruyns, who is also responsible to setting up the course. “The new grooves might have an impact on shots around the greens, but there is considerably less really thick rough, so players will find that playing recovery shots will be a lot easier,” he said.
Ernie Els made the point that the putting surfaces are exceptionally fast – even this early in the week, and as the tournament progresses, they will gets progressively faster. “I hit quite a few putts way past the hole today,” said the three-time champion after the Pro-Am round.
Spectators have been advised to get to the course early, and for those that have not yet secured tickets, they should not delay.