Northen Ireland’s world No 3- ranked golfing star Rory McIlroy will honour a promise he made to South African legend Ernie Els and play in the SA Open at Glendower Golf Club next year.
Four-time major winner McIlroy ‚ who last week picked up the Fedex Cup on the US PGA Tour‚ made the commitment to Els at the 2014 Irish Open.
Els‚ who is the official SA Open host‚ encouraged McIlroy to play in the world’s second-oldest golf tournament (after The Open) when he was a guest of McIlroy’s own charitable foundation.
“Rory was very serious about coming to South Africa when I told him he ‘owed me one’ at the Irish Open‚” Els said.
“I’m glad that he made the commitment so soon. His presence will help the growth of the SA Open, which has been doing so well over the last few years.”
The newly crowned 2016 FedEx Cup champion spent a few weeks in South Africa soon after he turned professional in 2008.
He played in the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek and finished in a share of third with Els at the SA Open at Pearl Valley near Cape Town that year.
“I can’t wait to come back to play in South Africa – it’s been a while since I was there‚” he said.
“Ernie’s done such a great job of assembling a great field. Obviously we’re also there to support a great cause in Els for Autism.”
The 27-year-old McIlroy’s four major titles include two US PGA victories in 2012 and 2014‚ the 2011 US Open and the 2014 Open.
He has won 22 titles worldwide and earned more than $70-million (R980-million) in prize money.
McIlroy spent 95 weeks at No 1 on the Official World Golf Ranking‚ the fourth-longest period at the summit of the list.
His participation in the 106th SA Open will give golf fans the opportunity to see one of the great modern players in action.
In addition to the field of an equal number of European and Sunshine Tour professionals‚ he will be up against defending champion Brandon Stone‚ as well as Retief Goosen‚ the two-time US Open winner who won the SA Open in 1995 and 2005.
“We are delighted Rory will play in the SA Open‚” Sunshine Tour boss director Selwyn Nathan said.
“His presence adds even more value to the tournament for our generous hosts‚ the City of Ekurhuleni ‚ and our title sponsor, BMW South Africa.”
The SA Open takes place at Glendower Golf Club from January 12 to 15.