Nedbank Golf Challenge
Battle of the golf kings
Lee Westwood (Gallo Images)
Sun City - Ernie Els's biggest enemy this year was his putting iron, a sore calf got the better of Lee Westwood and Louis Oosthuizen's year of glory was interrupted by an ankle injury.WIN: Golf merchandise worth R2000
For these three star attractions in the Nedbank Golf Challenge, 2010 was a year of great success, but also full of unnecessary setbacks. For each player, this week's big test at Sun City's notorious Green Monster is a chance to end the year on a high.
The trio will attract several spectators. Over the past 18 years, Els has after all, established himself as the undisputed king of Sun City, as the official number one on the world rankings, Westwood is the king of golf and in July, Oosthuizen was the king of St Andrews after winning the British Open.
Westwood and Els are the bookies' favourites to win the historic 30th tournament – Westwood due to his excellent playing form over the past two challenge tournament seasons, and Els thanks to his knowledge of the course and earlier successes here.
This is Els’s 17th tournament, but has not been here for three years. The two championships that he had to watch on TV, he said on Wednesday, made him hungry to this year add a fourth title to his victories of 1999, 2000 and 2002.
"It is fantastic to be back," he said with great conviction. "I have really missed this place and hopefully I will do very well here this week."
Els this year had his best season in many years, with two victories in the PGA series in May. Since the American Open he has been hampered by a troublesome putting iron, a problem that he wants to overcome with his new putter.
"I last week went to fetch one of my old putters and worked very hard on that aspect of my game. The putting greens here are very good, so I hope to use it and to have a good week with the putting iron," said Els.
“Westwood is the first number one player in the world to play in Sun City since Tiger Woods in 1998 but says there is no extra pressure because of it.
"To become the best player in the world, you have to play very well, but how can there be pressure on you when you do that?" he said. "I worked hard for 17 years to get where I am now; there is a lot of self-confidence that comes with achieving it."
"I hope it will be to my benefit this week, because I'd be crazy about winning here."
Apart from four South Africans and four Americans playing in the normal championship, eight veterans will be seen on Thursday and Friday in a special senior championship.
Former champions Nick Price, David Frost, Fulton Allem and Mark McNulty and Americans Jay Haas, Tommy Armour III, Jeff Sluman and Fred Funk will play in a 36 putt championship for a replica of the Nedbank trophy.Pairings:
11h10 - Ross Fisher (UK), Edoardo Molinari (ITA)
11h22 - Retief Goosen (RSA), Ernie Els (RSA)
11h34 - Justin Rose (ENG), Lee Westwood (ENG)
11h46 - Padraig Harrington (IRE), Anders Hansen (DEN)
11h58 - Tim Clark (RSA), Louis Oosthuizen (RSA)
12h10 - Miguel A Jimenez (ESP), Robert Allenby (AUS)