Ryder Cup stars pack Sun City field
19 October 2012
Seven members of the European Ryder Cup winning team and three South Africans are among the field of 12 players announced for the 2012 Nedbank Golf Challenge on Thursday.
Lee Westwood, who tasted victory in the Nordea Masters in June, will be back to defend the title and will be aiming for a third win in succession. The Gary Player Country Club course seems particularly well suited to the world number four's game and he has consistently scored low in the past.
In 2011, he won by two shots over Robert Karlsson with a 15-under-par total of 273 that included a course record 10-under-par 62 in the third round which Westwood described as "probably the best round I've ever played." Having won with a 17-under-par total of 271 in 2010 too, Westwood's win last year made him the sixth man to successfully defend the title.
Three wins in succession
No one has managed three wins on the trot at Sun City - South Africa's Ernie Els won three times in four years in 1999, 2000 and 2002 - so the English star will be out to make history, but he'll have to defeat yet another world class field to secure the winner’s $1 250 000 cheque.
Just one place below Westwood in the world rankings is South African-born Englishman Justin Rose, who will be making his fourth appearance in the event. His best result previously was a runner-up finish to Trevor Immelman in 2007.
His results in 2012 include winning the WGC Cadillac Championship and the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final. He also tied for third in the PGA Championship.
South African challenge
World number 12, Louis Oosthuizen, spearheads the South African challenge. His results in 2012 have been excellent, especially early in the year, which began on a high note when he successfully defended the Africa Open title in East London.
In April, he narrowly missed out on his second Major title when Bubba Watson defeated him in a playoff at The Masters, but he made his mark on the tournament with an albatross in the final round after holing his drive from 253 yards out on the par-five second hole.
Just a week later, after crossing 12 time zones, the 2010 Open champion claimed the Maybank Malaysian Open title. More recently, in August, Oosthuizen finished fourth in the WGC - Bridgestone Invitational, and in September he was second in the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Sunshine Tour Order of Merit winner
Fellow South African Garth Mulroy will be a first-timer in the Nedbank Golf Challenge. He earned his place by finishing top of the Sunshine Tour’' Order of Merit after a season that included victory in the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek in November 2011. As a co-sanctioned event, it was also his first European Tour win.
At 172 in the world rankings, he is the lowest ranked player in the field, but his familiarity with South African conditions means his challenge cannot be ruled out.
Oosthuizen's good friend, Charl Schwartzel, completes the South African challenge at Sun City. The world number 31 will be playing in the event for a fourth time, while it will be a second time for Oosthuizen. Schwartzel's previous best finish was fifth place in 2006.
His form early in the year was good and he reached as high as sixth in the world rankings after finishing fourth in the WGC - Cadillac Championship, but he has been a little off his best since then. The shine on his year could be significantly buffed if he wins on the Gary Player Country Club course.
Big-hitting Nicolas Colsaerts starred in Europe's dramatic, history-making 14½–13½ Ryder Cup win over the United States at the Medinah Country Club, now nicknamed "the Miracle at Medinah" after the Europeans fought back to take victory after beginning the final day 10-6 behind.
His performances at Medinah included a round of 10-under-par as he and Lee Westwood defeated Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker.
Other highlights of the Belgian star's year include his performances in tournaments sponsored by Volvo. He won the Volvo World Matchplay in May, was second in the Volvo China Open in April, and fourth in the Volvo Golf Championships in South Africa in January.
The lone American in the field will be Bill Haas, ranked 34th in the world. He will be making his debut in the event.
Haas won the 2011 FedEx Cup and was part of the USA team that in 2011 scored a 19-15 2011 Presidents Cup win over the International Team, which included Charl Schwartzel.
In 2012, he won the Northern Trust Open after a playoff victory over Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley. It was his fourth PGA Tour win.
Like Haas, Sweden's Peter Hanson will be making his first start in the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
The world number 25 and member of the Ryder Cup winning team boasts a recent win in the KLM Open and, apart from that victory, top five finishes this year in the Qatar Masters, the WGC - Accenture Match Play Championship, the WGC - Cadillac Champion and the Nordea Masters.
Former world number one
Former world number one Martin Kaymer will be making his second appearance at Sun City, having previously finished eighth in 2011. When he reached number one in 2011, he became only the second German after Nedbank Golf Challenge favourite, Bernhard Langer, to reach that position.
Kaymer would probably consider his winless 2012 a difficult season, but after sinking the winning putt in the Ryder Cup, that victory could be just the fillip he needs to get back to winning ways.
Another first-timer will be Sweden's Carl Pettersson. In April, he won the RBC Heritage on the PGA Tour just two weeks after a runner-up finish in the Shell Houston Open. More recently, he placed fourth in the PGA Championship on the Ocean Course at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort.
Although from Sweden, he is not a member of the European Tour, having played only two years on the Tour in the early 2000s.
Thirteen years between appearances
Scotland's Paul Lawrie makes his second appearance in the Nedbank Golf Challenge 13 years after his debut in the event in 1999, the same year he won The Open Championship at Carnoustie as a qualifier after starting the final round 10 shots behind the leader.
His results in 2012 have included victories in the Qatar Masters and the Johnnie Walker Championship and second place in the BMW PGA Championship.
After struggling to eleventh place in his Nedbank Golf Challenge in 2011, Italy's Francesco Molinari returns to the Gary Player Country Club no doubt aiming to make a much more significant impact on the tournament.
He has twice been part of European Ryder Cup teams that defeated the USA 14½–13½, including this year's humdinger. He is currently sandwiched between South Africa's Branden Grace and Ernie Els, in fourth place on the Race to Dubai standings, thanks to a very steady season.
In May, Molinari won the Open de España, while in July he achieved successive runner-up finishes in the Scottish Opebn and Open de France.
Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See: Using SAinfo material