Ryder Cup pros head for Sun City

2014-11-02 15:00

This year’s Nedbank Golf Challenge promises to be the most exciting yet, with six players from the ­victorious European Ryder Cup squad confirming they will be playing.

The event tees off at Gary Player Country Club in Sun City, North West, on December 4.

So far, 12 competitors have been announced, six of whom were on the Ryder Cup-winning team. They are the first batch of a 30-member field to compete in what is the year’s penultimate event of the Sunshine and European tours.

The Ryder Cup and European Tour winners are Thomas Bjørn, ­Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood, Victor Dubuisson, Jamie Donaldson and Stephen Gallacher. The first three golfers have won the tournament in the past.

Charl Schwartzel, winner of the 2011 US Masters, and Dawie van der Walt are the only South Africans so far to have already raised their hands to compete in what is considered to be Africa’s Major. Van der Walt won the 2013 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit.

Other European Tour players include former world number one Luke Donald and Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Thongchai Jaidee.

Local golf lovers will be delighted to know that Spain’s flamboyant veteran, Miguel Ángel Jiménez, will also be participating in this year’s event. The 50-year-old, cigar-puffing player made an impressive debut on the Champions Tour (the veterans’ tour for players 50 years of age and over), winning the Greater Gwinnett Championship at TPC Sugarloaf golf course in Georgia, US, in April. He beat Bernhard Langer by two strokes.

Jiménez was vice-captain of the European Ryder Cup squad that beat the US team in September.

According to tournament organiser Alastair Roper, other South African players will be announced soon.

“We are hoping to call up a number of other top players, including Ernie Els. We’ll also name more overseas players within the next few weeks to increase the field. We’re still weighing up options,” he said.

Bjørn shot a final-round 65 to win last year’s showpiece.

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