Open champion Henrik Stenson, the world’s fifth ranked player, will bring his Major-winning presence to the star-studded cast of the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player in the penultimate event of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.
The Swede will be joined at the Gary Player Country Club in South Africa’s magnificent Sun City resort by defending champion Marc Leishman, who forced Stenson into second place last year with an inspired performance as he raced to a six-shot victory.
Now part of the Race to Dubai’s Final Series, the Nedbank Golf Challenge will welcome 72 of the world’s best players to contest a US$7 million prize fund as the battle to be crowned the European Tour’s number one player nears its climax.
Among those 72 will be South Africa’s highest ranked trio of Branden Grace (13th), former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen (20th) and former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel (25th), as well as George Coetzee.
Other notable appearances in the first wave of star names released by tournament organisers include European Ryder Cup players Rafa Cabrera Bello, Thomas Pieters, Andy Sullivan and Chris Wood, who will join Stenson as part of Darren Clarke’s European team heading to Hazeltine to defend The Ryder Cup against the USA next week.
Stenson, winner of the Nedbank Golf Challenge in 2008, is relishing a return to Sun City where he will look to close out the greatest season of his career by adding what is dubbed “Africa’s Major” to the Olympic silver medal and Claret Jug he won so spectacularly at Royal Troon after an unforgettable battle with Phil Mickelson.
He said: “The Nedbank Golf Challenge is one of those tournaments which grabs the attention at the end of the year, and now that it is part of the Race to Dubai’s Final Series it has taken another step up in terms of importance. Sun City is such a great resort as well that it’s a week I really enjoy at the end of the season.
“I am second on the Race to Dubai at the moment and I know that if I can win the Nedbank Golf Challenge then I will have a great chance to finish the season as number one, which would be the perfect way to end what has obviously been a very special year for me. I love the course at the Gary Player Country Club and know what it takes to win round there.
“I won the BMW International Open in Germany in June which gave me a lot of confidence and then the rest is history I suppose. The Major was the one thing really missing from my career, so to win The Open was fantastic. It’s very cool to be introduced on the first tee everywhere you go as The Open champion, and I think I will get an amazing reception at Sun City because the crowds there are always brilliant down in South Africa.”
Alastair Roper, Sun International’s Tournament Director of the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player, expressed his delight at the first wave of stars to commit to this year’s tournament.
“To have such a mix of global stars including Major winners, Olympic golfers and Ryder Cup players is just the beginning of what I know is going to be one of the strongest fields we have ever had in the Nedbank Golf Challenge. Our positioning on the Race to Dubai is going to ensure that South African golf fans are in for an amazing week of golf at Sun City.”
The array of stars already committed has also been welcomed by tournament sponsor Nedbank.
“We have taken a significant step up this year in terms of our investment in ‘Africa’s Major’ and it was with exactly this kind of player response in mind that we did this. I think this early response from some of the biggest names in world golf is indeed a reflection of the tournament’s new elevated status, and no doubt a sign of even bigger things to come,” said Mike Brown, Chief Executive Officer of Nedbank.