Willett set to defend title

SUN CITY DEBUT: US golfer andmajor champion Keegan Bradley
SUN CITY DEBUT: US golfer andmajor champion Keegan Bradley

Dry NGC course may suit Stenson to a tee

FORMER Nedbank Golf Challenge champions Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood will be mightily relieved that the usually daunting course could suit them to a tee this year.

The lack of rain has meant the Sun City course has had to be irrigated with almost twice the normal volume of water and for the moment, at least, the rough is relatively accommodating. Dry conditions that have prevailed in the Pilanesberg and the erstwhile champions’ attacking tee to green mindset will stand them in good stead in the event that will be held from December 3 to 6.

Stenson, who is ranked seventh in the world, shot 21 under par en route to the title in 2008. So far he is the only top 10 player in the field.

Of course, South Africa’s Ernie Els, a three-time champion of the event, is also capable of breezing through the Gary Player Country Club. Els, who still holds the record score of 25 under par for the tournament, missed last year’s event won by Danny Willett, who confirmed that he will be defending his title. Willett, who is ranked 26th in the world, will have his work cut out to become the first back-to-back winner since Westwood achieved the
feat in 2011.

Westwood will be desperate to add to his two titles and join an elite group consisting of Els,David Frost and Nick Price, who have won three titles. While Stenson is the highest ranked player in the field, South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen with a world ranking of 13 is expected to mount a huge challenge in a tournament he is yet to win.

The organisers this week announced that American Keegan Bradley will make his debut at the event. Bradley is the fourth major champion in the field of 12 players that will eventually expand to 30. The winner of three PGA
Tour titles became only the fourth golfer in history to win a major championship on debut when he claimed the 2011 PGA Championship. He has also played in two Ryder Cupsand one Presidents Cup.

Bradley was named in the field alongside South Africa’s Branden Grace, Americans Robert Streb and Scott Piercy, as well as Australian Steven Bowditch. Grace has had a solid year with a tied fourth place in the US Open and a third place in the US PGA Championship Grace is ranked 22nd, Willett 26th, Piercy 43rd and Westwood 48th in the world.

Confirmed players for this year’s Nedbank Golf Challenge: Ernie Els (South Africa), Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley (both United States), Lee Westwood (England), Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa), Henrik Stenson (Sweden), Branden Grace (South Africa), Danny Willett (England), Thomas Aiken (South Africa), Robert Streb (United States),Scott Piercy (United States),Steven Bowditch (Australia).

-Liam del Carme

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