Nedbank Golf Challenge

SA's Frittelli a dark horse at Nedbank Challenge

2017-11-07 12:41
Dylan Frittelli (Getty Images)

Sun City - Dylan Frittelli’s brilliant second place last week at the Turkish Airlines Open has been a game-changer, and he goes into this week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge at the Gary Player with more than just the proverbial momentum in his favour.

Frittelli came second to two-time major champion and Olympic gold medallist Justin Rose over the weekend, in the process vaulting his way up to 18th on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

And now that he’s back in South Africa, there will be a lot of factors working for him as he chases what would be the first South African victory in the Sun City extravaganza since Trevor Immelman won in 2007.

"I’m really excited," said Frittelli, who won his first European Tour title in June’s Lyoness Open.

"I’m trying not to get too excited, obviously, but focus on playing well. I’ve got some good form from last week, so I hope to carry it over to this week.

"I’m obviously home now - South African conditions, high elevation and kikuyu grass. It’s what I grew up on, what I’m used to, so it’s pretty relaxing.

"I played here about 10 years ago the last time, so I’m really pulling on a few somewhat distant memories. But my game has evolved so much over the years, it’s really a different golf course. So I had memories of it being a really tough challenge and a really hard course, but now it’s kind of looking like a puzzle. I just need to piece it together, use target golf, hit some good shots and get ready for Thursday."

And while many might raise their eyebrows at Frittelli thinking Gary Player Country Club is not quite the challenge he remembers from his childhood, it bears remembering that South African players - and other champions - have been able to go very low on it during the Nedbank Golf Challenge.

"I haven’t got a plan yet," he said.

"I’m going to look at the yardage book after today’s pro-am, which is pretty much my practice round. Tomorrow, I’ll sit down with my caddie and look at what we’re going to do on a few holes. Most of the holes are pretty straightforward. You have to play them a certain way and maybe there are a couple where you can take a choice off the tee - but it’s just about making birdies."

With his short game clearly in great shape - he had three chip-ins during the final round in Turkey - Frittelli will be one player the rest of the field will be eyeing anxiously.

"Last week was probably the best golf I’ve played this year," he said.

"I was playing at a high level. Playing with some of the best players in the world is always good. I haven’t done well in a Rolex Series event on the European Tour this whole year, so I feel that result kind of made up for my poor form in the other events. I hope I can earn some more points in the next two weeks.

"My goal before last week was getting into the top 30 on the Race to Dubai. Last week changed everything, so now, it’s time to reassess and try and move up. It’s tough to refocus. Obviously, there’s a lot of media attention coming back to South Africa, but it’s nice to relax a little in the pro-am, and tomorrow, I’ll take a little time off, hit a few balls and relax, and Thursday, I’ll be ready to go."

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