Sun City - Double Major champion and the 2004 winner of “Africa’s Major” Retief Goosen says everything about this week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player feels like a Major Championship.
“This event has always been one of the best in the world. The effort that goes into it is amazing. Around the 18th green with all the grandstands there it feels like you’re playing in a Major Championship. It’s amazing what they’ve done with this event,” Goosen said on the eve of Thursday’s first round of this tournament.
There is definitely the feeling of a major new era around this tournament as it will make its official debut on the European Tour’s Final Series when the first group tees off at 7:45am at the Gary Player Country Club tomorrow.
But another former winner in Martin Kaymer is still every bit as impressed by the personal touch of this tournament.
“The quality of the golf event hasn’t changed at all. The South African people are very similar to the German people in terms of culture so I really feel very comfortable here. If I struggle with the English then I can get by even with some German words because of the Afrikaans language here. And they are friendly and very happy for us to come here and support golf in South Africa. The people in the hotel, when we say hello to each other it’s with a hug. That’s what this tournament has always done really well. It’s been very personal.”
One thing that hasn’t changed at all is the challenge that is the Gary Player Country Club course.
“The course is in some of the best condition I’ve seen it,” said Branden Grace, who joins a group of nine South Africans hoping to keep the trophy on home soil for the first time since 1997.
“Pretty much everything in your game must be on song here. Ernie’s (Els) tournament record of 25 under par definitely won’t happen again this week.”
“The golf course this year is set up a bit like a Major. The fairways are narrow and the rough is four inches deep, and with the wind blowing here it’s going to be tricky. I don’t see any ridiculously low scores this year.”