The Black Knight’s favourite NGC moments

Gary Player’s five picks are an honour from the international ambassador of golf. (Michael Stobe, Gallo Images)
Gary Player’s five picks are an honour from the international ambassador of golf. (Michael Stobe, Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - Gary Player has selected five of his greatest moments in the history of the Nedbank Golf Challenge (NGC), which he believes best define the “Stroke of Genius” campaign behind this year’s tournament.

The Black Knight is the official NGC host and starts his top five with Fabrizio Zanotti’s hole-in-one on the par-three fourth hole in last year’s tournament. The Paraguayan golfer hit a perfect seven iron to make the first hole-in-one in NGC history.

“The layout of the fourth hole is water in front of the green. If you miss the green right, you’re in great difficulty. The wind comes through that little valley, which always makes it more difficult. It’s hard to read the wind. It has a great effect on the shot, but from a high, elevated tee, the shot goes higher, so it stops quicker. One is inclined to attack that pin,” explained Player a few days ago. 

Stroke of genius

The Grand Slam champion’s next choice is Tiger Woods’ chip-in on the 18th green in 1998 to force a playoff with Nick Price.

“First of all, you can imagine the pressure for Tiger to chip in on the 18th hole and to win a million dollars. What a dynamic golfer. He was focused and confident over that chip. Think about Nick Price standing there and watching this. He’s thinking: ‘This man’s going to chip in the hole.’ I’m telling you. You could hear that roar. It made for a phenomenal tournament. That was really a stroke of genius at the right time".

Player’s next pick is Thomas Bjørn’s final-round eagle on the par-five 14th on his way to victory back in 2013.

“The risk when you stand at number 14 is that it’s do or die. The way the stage was set, he was only going to win by one shot. In other words, he was not going to win unless he did it. You can’t play safe at that stage. If you look at where the pin was – it’s a tiny little green. And he was probably roughly 260 yards [about 237.7m] from the flag. Now, that ball could very well have stuck in the love grass. But he hit it in the right spot and it went through the kikuyu fringe onto the green about 10 to 12 feet [approximately 3 to 4 metres] from the hole and he holed the putt. He went on to win by two shots".

Most strategic victories

Jim Furyk’s first NGC victory in 2005 is also on Player’s list. The American was involved in a four-man playoff with Darren Clarke, Adam Scott and Retief Goosen, and then chipped in on the par-four 18th hole of the second play-off to win the game.

“You’ve got a four-man play-off on one hole to decide the event. There’s only one thought – you have to birdie the hole. You’ve only got one chance. Isn’t it amazing that the man who doesn’t hit the green and is worse off, going straight downhill, chips it in the hole. There is the stroke of genius".

Keep ball in play

And finally, Player lists Henrik Stenson’s 2008 victory by nine strokes as his final greatest performance. That week, Stenson never used his driver once and relied heavily on his three wood in one of the most strategic victories ever witnessed in the tournament.

“One thing about the Gary Player Country Club is that the rough is very penal, particularly the trees. It’s essential to have a plan because your plan gives you confidence. Stenson realised that you keep the ball in play. He hit the ball very high, particulary with his three wood which he also hit as far as most people do their driver.

“He always used that club because that was his confident club,” concluded Player.

– Michael Vlismas Media

* To view all five of Player’s #StrokeofGenius moments, go to Sun International Golf on YouTube

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