Danny Willett (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Defending champion Danny Willett, of England, is amongst the first three players confirmed for the 2015 Nedbank Golf Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club from December 3-6, returning to the scene of the biggest victory of his career.
Willett won by four shots last year, adding his name to those of Sir Nick Faldo and Lee Westwood as English champions of this tournament.
“Those are some pretty good names to be next to. You see all those names on the walk to the ninth green, and you realise how many great players have been here. Words can’t describe it,” Willett said of his triumph.
Swede Henrik Stenson and South Africa’s Thomas Aiken have also both confirmed their places in “Africa’s Major”, which is co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and European Tour.
The field for the $6.5 million tournament will once again feature 30 of the world’s best players competing for a first prize of $1.25 million. But an exciting new eligibility criteria this year includes four specially selected tournament invites.
“We are very pleased to welcome back two former champions in Danny and Henrik,” said Sun International’s Alastair Roper, the Tournament Director of the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
“And Thomas is a welcome new face in the tournament as another young South African realising his dream of playing in a tournament that he has watched since he was a boy.”
Willett returns to Sun City at the end of a 2015 in which he won the Omega European Masters with a spectacular second round of 62. He entrenched his status as a new star of international golf when he finished third in the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship and challenged for The Open, where he eventually finished tied sixth for his best result in a Major.
Stenson makes his sixth appearance in the Nedbank Golf Challenge, having won the 2008 showpiece when he beat American Kenny Perry by nine shots in one of the most emphatic victories in the history of this tournament.
Stenson enjoyed another consistent season in 2015, finishing second in the BMW International Open on the European Tour and not missing a single cut on the PGA Tour as he played his way to second on the final FedEx Cup standings.
His record in the Nedbank Golf Challenge is also one of the most consistent, with the big Swede having finished no worse than fourth in his previous five appearances.
And Aiken will make his debut in the Nedbank Golf Challenge as the winner of the 2014 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, which he secured in dramatic fashion when he overtook Danie van Tonder in the final tournament of the 2014 season.