Gripping golf season awaits Mzansi fans

Johannesburg - With the Sunshine and European tour seasons getting into full swing on South African golf courses from next month, fans will get the chance to see some big stars competing in the country.

Call it the tri-action tour of co-sanctioned events featuring the crème de la crème of world golf, the hectic calendar tees off with the Nedbank Golf Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City on November 10.

This will be followed by the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek Golf Estate from December 1 to 4.

As if top-class action is not enough, the new year will tee off with the BMW Open Championship at Glendower Golf Club in Ekurhuleni from January 12 to 15.

The Nedbank Golf Challenge, the event dubbed Africa’s major, has attracted some of the world’s top players, including hotshot Swede Henrik Stenson, who is ranked fifth in the world.

Stenson, who is enjoying one of his best runs on the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) and European stages, will battle for birdies and those elusive eagles with defending Nedbank Golf Challenge champion Marc Leishman of Australia.

Stenson became the first Swedish golfer to win a major this year by lifting the British Open at Royal Troon in Scotland in July.

Leishman’s win at Sun City last year, where he registered an impressive under-par 1 for 67 in the final round, to leave Stenson bamboozled in second place by five shots, is set to draw large galleries at the Sun City fairways this year.

With this season’s field having been stretched from 30 to 72 contestants, there will be stiff competition, with Mzansi’s golden boys Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen eager to show their mettle at Sun City.

At the Alfred Dunhill showpiece, there will be a glut of stars who feature on the Asian and Australasian PGA tours. Their names will be unveiled soon.

But focus on this contest, which will land right in the middle of the festive season, will be on defending champ Charl Schwartzel.

Last year, he eased to a four-shot victory on the final day to become the third South African behind Ernie Els and Retief Goosen to win 10 European Tour titles.

Schwartzel’s notable victory on the PGA this year was the Valspar Championship on the Copperhead Golf Course at Innisbrook Resort in Tampa, Florida, in March. He will be out to show his class once more at his Leopard Creek slaughterhouse.

And South African fans will witness Irish hotshot Rory McIlroy doing his thing at the SA Open at Glendower.

Ranked third globally, McIlroy swung back to the best shape of his career this year after recovering from an ankle injury that ruled him out of action.

He came from three shots back to win the Tour Championship and the FedExCup at East Lake last month.

The erstwhile world number one spent a few weeks in South Africa soon after turning professional in 2008.

At the time, he played in the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek and finished tied third with Els at the SA Open, which was played at Pearl Valley near Cape Town that year.

McIlroy is coming to play in South Africa to honour a commitment he made to Els, who participated in the 2014 Irish Open, hosted by McIlroy’s foundation.

McIlroy will prove a thing or two to many players at Glendower, including Els, defending champion Brandon Stone and other top players who will be competing in one of South Africa’s oldest national open golf championships.

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