Ernie Els excited for Leopard Creek return: 'There's nothing like this'

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South African golfer Ernie Els
South African golfer Ernie Els
David Berding/Getty Images

South African golfer Ernie Els is delighted to be back in the country ahead of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek Country Club.

The Alfred Dunhill Championship returns to the DP World Tour schedule after taking a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

South Africa's Christiaan Bezuidenhout will defend his 2019 title as 86 golfers vie for a prize fund of €1.5 million.

The Alfred Dunhill Championship overlooks the Kruger National Park, making it one of the flagship events on both the Sunshine Tour and DP World Tour.

This week's field features four-time major winner Els, who won at Leopard Creek in 2005, LIV golfers Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace and Shaun Norris. PGA Tour campaigners Erik van Rooyen, Dylan Frittelli and Dean Burmester are also in the star-studded South African field.

Els, who has been plying his trade on the PGA Champions Tour and Senior Tour, is back playing competitive golf in SA for the first time since 2020.

"It's great to be back, just look at the place they've had some rain and it's looking good," said Els.

"Now that we live aboard, we're like tourists. My wife is here and the kids are abroad. We here enjoying it like we are tourists, we're going into the park and enjoying the South African bush, which is such an amazing place."

Els took part in last week's Indonesian Masters on the Asian Tour, finishing tied for 56th at Royale Jakarta Golf Club.

"I had a bit of a run in Indonesia, got some rust off. This is my second week. It's one of my favourite events in the world and hopefully, we can do something," said Els.

"The green keeping has been amazing here, the edges of the bunkers are crisp. Everything is in great shape. The whole place is in a wonderful condition.

"Every time I come here, I'm just amazed. It's world-class, there's nothing like this."

Els is excited to see South African golf in such a healthy place following Thriston Lawrence's win at the Investec SA Open last week.

"Seeing Thriston do as well as he has done is great to see. It reminds us of the past players and what other South Africans have done," said Els.

"We have such a rich history in the game in this country and these young players are continuing that. The roots of the game are in place here with the amazing work done by GolfRSA, the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB) and other foundations such as mine and those of other golfers. Golf is in a good state in South Africa."

Featured groups for Round 1 at Leopard Creek:

06:40 - George Coetzee, Ockie Strydom, Dale Whitnell

06:50 - Branden Grace, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Eddie Pepperell

07:00 - Ernie Els, Christian Maas, Edoardo Molinari

11:40 - Erik van Rooyen, Clement Sordet, Daniel van Tonder

11:50 - Charl Schwartzel, Sean Crocker, Dean Burmester

12:00 - Thriston Lawrence, Adrian Otaegui, Louis Oosthuizen

12:10 - Zander Lombard, Wilco Nienaber, Sami Valimaki

12:30 - Shaun Norris, Marcel Siem, Matthew Southgate

11:20 - Thabang Simon, Rourke van der Spuy, Dylan Frittelli

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