World’s Best Hungry for Sun City Gloryon December 1, 2011
World number one, Luke Donald sees it as the perfect validation of a very good year. Lee Westwood says the winner is always remembered. Charl Schwartzel says it’s a major event for any South African golfer. And Simon Dyson likens it to his first Masters.
For the world’s best golfers, the Nedbank Golf Challenge is a highly sought after title. The Gary Player Country Club is primed to receive 12 of the world’s leading professionals when the tournament tees off on Thursday. And there is no doubt that each one of them knows exactly what it means to command a place in this exclusive field. “I’m always excited to be here,” said Donald. “This is always a tournament I look forward to. It always gets a great field, and having three of the top four on the world rankings is very special for the event. “This has always been one of those events where, if you’re playing this week, you know you’ve had a good year. It’s a reward at the end of the year. But at the same time it’s a great event. It’s not just another event. It’s Africa’s Major as they like to call it, and it attracts a great field. There is no doubt that this is a quality event.”
Westwood, the defending champion and a man who has never finished worse than fifth in seven previous appearances here, believes there is a touch of golfing immortality for the winner of the Nedbank Golf Challenge. “Everybody remembers who wins at Sun City. It’s a tournament you just like to be in if you have the opportunity.” As the only South African in this year’s field, Schwartzel is hoping to fly his country’s flag proudly. “I’ve got a lot of memories of this event. This is the first event my dad brought me to watch. This is my third time and it really is a special event. It’s always great to come back here. “I would like to keep our flag flying high and I’m up for that challenge. I rate this tournament highly. I think for a South African to play the Nedbank – it’s big. I know this is a really strong field, but I don’t think it means as much to them as it does to a South African.”
Dyson is making his debut in the tournament and is looking forward to being part of what he says is one of the most special weeks in world golf. “The quality of this field – you’re pitting your wits against the best the game has to offer. It’s the prestige of the thing. Just to be invited is a big honour for me. I had a hell of a six-week spell and to have it capped off by receiving an invite to a tournament like this, one that I’ve grown up watching, is a massive honour. I’m just going to try and relish it and play well. “It’s like when I first played the Masters in 2009. To go there and you see the holes you’ve always seen on TV and actually stand there was unbelievable. It’s the same here. I’ve heard so much about it and watched it on TV. I also got an invite for Tiger Woods’s Chevron World Challenge this week, but the minute this one came through there was no comparison. I booked my flight within 24 hours.”
Dyson and Sweden’s Robert Karlsson will tee off this year’s event at 11h10. Donald is paired with Anders Hansen at 11h22. Germany’s Martin Kaymer joins Open champion Darren Clarke off at 11h34. Schwartzel leads out the South African challenge alongside Italy’s Francesco Molinari at 11h46. Kyung-Tae Kim and Graeme McDowell are off at 11h58, and American Jason Dufner is paired with Westwood at 12h10.