Johannesburg - Thomas Aiken was a notable absentee last year, and is pleased to be teeing it up in the Investec Cup starting on Thursday at Millvale Private Retreat, in Koster.
Aiken is one of an elite field of 30 players who made it through a year-long quest for points in all the regular-season Sunshine Tour events, beginning with the Golden Zimbabwe Open last April and ending at the Tshwane Open earlier this month.
The R1-million Cup finale starts at Millvale, where the first two rounds will be played, and will wrap up on the Lost City at Sun City for round three and four on the weekend.
With a bonus pool of R10 million to be divided up among the 30 participants, and R3.5 million going to the cup winner after the tournament, there is plenty at stake.
"I flew all the way back from the United States for this," said Aiken.
"I think Investec has done a great job in putting up the bonus money for the Sunshine Tour players. It’s a big incentive and a nice way to end off the summer leg of the Tour."
Aiken managed to get into the tournament in third spot on 1,685 points, just 134 adrift of Tshwane Open winner Ross Fisher, who leads with 1,819 points. Fisher, in turn, is just three clear of second-placed Hennie Otto.
Aiken’s position is a reflection of his maiden European Tour victory on home soil in South Africa -- – he won February’s Africa Open in a play-off from England’s Oliver Fisher who is in 10th position with 1,180 points.
"I’ve been playing nicely the last few months," said Aiken, who came fifth in the Joburg Open before his Africa Open triumph.
"That’s useful going into this tournament, because the points are quite heavily weighted in favour of the final event and it looks like anything can happen," he added.
"I was doing some calculations, and anyone down to about 24th can win, so there really is all to play for in this event. It’s basically starting at zero for a lot of us and we have to think that way, and if you don’t win then you’re probably not going to win the bonus pool."