Sun City attracts stars in a new format

2013-06-23 14:00

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Line-up for this year’s $6.5m Challenge will see the finest take to the course.

Adam Scott and Justin Rose, both of whom have won majors this year, will be among the heavy hitters in the “revamped” Nedbank Golf Challenge, which tees off at Sun City’s Gary Player Country Club in December.

Australian Scott won the Masters at Augusta National in Georgia, the US, in April; while Englishman Rose lifted the US Open trophy at the Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania, the US, last Sunday.

Scott’s birdie putt at the second hole during a tense play-off against Argentinian Ángel Cabrera made him the first-ever Australian to win the Masters.

Joburg-born Rose gave pre-game favourite Phil Mickelson of the US a shock of his life by registering a ­two-stroke victory to become the first Englishman in 43 years since Tony Jackson to win the US Open.

The Sunshine Tour’s CEO, Grant Wilson, told City Press in an interview at the golf challenge launch in Sandton this week that both Scott and Rose will definitely be in Sun City by virtue of their achievements and good ratings.

“It goes without saying that both players will gain automatic exemption for Sun City by virtue of their latest feat as majors winners,” he said.

“From the Sunshine Tour’s point of view, it is pleasing that South African golf lovers will look forward to watching these two in action here by virtue of them having won their maiden majors.”

What’s remarkable about both players is that they have one thing in common: they previously won the co-sanctioned Sunshine/European Tour Alfred Dunhill Championship at the Houghton Golf Club, in Joburg. Scott took the title in 2001, while Rose snatched it the following year.

And Wilson believes the duo’s presence will uplift the spirit of golf enthusiasts at the Gary Player Country Club.

This year’s tournament has entered a new era. For the first time in its 32-year history, the golf challenge,?dubbed “Africa’s major”, will feature an increased 30-man field competing for a mouthwatering purse of $6.5?million (R66?million), a $1.5?million increase from last year.

The format is in contrast to a 12-player international field that had been strictly adhered to over the years.

According to the tournament’s director, Alastair Roper, they were looking forward to seeing a strong presence of South African players competing against the best in the world.

Some of the top home-grown talent earmarked for the contest include Louis Oosthuizen, Ernie Els, Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace and George Coetzee.

Roper said that for the first time, the Nedbank Golf Challenge will be a European Tour co-sanctioned event.

“What will add colour in the event is the fact that there will be a nice variety of players from leading world tours – the PGA Tour in America, the Sunshine Tour, the Asian Tour, the Japan Tour and the Australasian Tour.”

He added that the 10 leading available players from the 30 in the standings in both this year’s FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai standings will be eligible.

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