Power player should win - Els

2004-12-01 18:03
Sun City - Look out for golfers who drive well and hit high lofted irons on to the greens.

Those, says South African Ernie Els, are the criteria needed to win this year's Nedbank Golf Challenge which will be played at the par-72, 7 162m, Gary Player Country Club layout here from Thursday to Sunday.

The golfers he puts in that category are Lee Westwood, Retief Goosen and defending champion Sergio Garcia.

And, of course, Els himself.

"You need to look at guys who have been here before and played well. And you have to look at the power players - those who drive well and hit the ball higher to the greens.

You first have to look at the opposition and then you have to play the golf course better than anybody else."

Els said that he has certain numbers in mind that he would need to shoot to win the tournament.

"If I do shoot those numbers then I hope they will be good enough to win.

"The days of shooting 22 or 23 under par are over and I would think that if you can keep it under 70 each day that should be close.

"Four 68s would be great."

Three players have dominated this tournament in the last seven years and all three are in this year's field - Els, Garcia and Zimbabwe's Nick Price.

Els won it in 1999, 2000 and 2002, Garcia captured the title in 2001 - beating Els in a playoff - and 2003, while Price was crowned in 1997 and 1998.

Price, though, by his own admission, no longer fits into Els's model of the kind of golfer who can win this tournament.

Changes to the course have also made it more difficult for the competitors.

"I've only played the back nine here this week," said Westwood on Wednesday, "but I like what I see.

"The course probably needed tweaking slightly, especially to the easier holes."

Els is a worthy favourite to win the title. He has had another great year with his only disappointments coming in the four majors where he was in contention to win all of them, but walked away with nothing.

But he did top the European Order of Merit, win the World Match Play Championships for a record sixth time and five other events on four different continents.

He is in top current form and hot off his win at the weekend in the Nelson Mandela Invitational at Somerset West.

Goosen will be hoping to go one better this year after losing out to Garcia in a playoff last year.

The current world number four has had a great year, winning the US Open, The European Tour Championship and the European Open.

Westwood has not played here since 2000 but has never finished further back than fifth in his three appearances.

Garcia knows what it takes to win here but the key for him is to get off to a good start.

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