Cape Town - Australian Marc Leishman played almost flawless golf at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City last year as he comfortably won by six strokes at the Gary Player Country Club.
According to the European Tour website, Henrik Stenson, the 2008 champion of the event, pushed Leishman the closest while reigning Masters champion Danny Willett was not far back in a share of fourth.
Race to Dubai leader Stenson makes his return to European Tour action in Sun City as he attempts to consolidate his No 1 position at an event which he won eight years ago and has otherwise enjoyed super form, finishing runner-up in his last visit in 2015.
This year, the Swede’s won The Open in July followed by a top 10 at the PGA Championship and successive runner-up finishes at the Olympics and the WGC-HSBC Champions two weeks ago.
However, Willett is breathing down Stenson’s neck in the Race to Dubai, €252 163 behind in second place and he also enters this week knowing he can win at this venue, having done so in 2014.
Sweden's Alex Noren will be another with his eyes on usurping his compatriot at the top of the Race to Dubai, as he targets a fourth victory of the season.
Willett’s fellow Ryder Cup stars Rafa Cabrera Bello, Matt Fitzpatrick, Martin Kaymer, Thomas Pieters and Andy Sullivan will also play, while Louis Oosthuizen - the highest-ranked South African on the Race to Dubai - is joined by the highest-ranked home star in the Official World Golf Ranking, Branden Grace, among several others.
The par-72 Gary Player Country Club is a gem in South Africa’s crown, built in an extinct volcanic crater and was in 2015 voted the country’s best golf course.
The 7 831-yard course rewards long and straight drives and there is not a lot of room for error from the tee, with testing rough and bush lining many fairways.
The flat dimensions can be deceiving too, as water hazards and bunkers are placed cunningly to catch out any mistakes, while the multi-faceted greens leave plenty of options for tricky pin positions throughout the week.
DID YOU KNOW?
• The Nedbank Golf Challenge became part of the European Tour International Schedule for the first time for the 2014 season. (The event was first played in 1981 and won by Johnny Miller). At the beginning of the 2014 season, the event was the 11th different European Tour event to be staged in South Africa.
• The Nedbank Golf Challenge became part of the European Tour’s Final Series for the first time this year.
• The Nedbank Golf Challenge is being played twice in the 2016 European Tour season.
• Three players have won the event on three occasions by David Frost, Nick Price and Ernie Els. The South African holds the tournament scoring record with 263 (-25) back in 1999.
• There have been 13 different Major champions who have their names etched on the Nedbank Golf Challenge’s roll of honour.
• Measuring 7 831 yards, the Gary Player Country Club is the third longest course in European Tour history.
• The Sun City venue also played host to European Tour competition prior to the Nedbank Golf Challenge. In 1996-1997 the Dimension Data Pro-Am took place and won by Mark McNulty (1996) and Nick Price (1997).
LAST FIVE WINNERS
2015 - Marc Leishman -19
2014 - Danny Willett -18
2013 - Thomas Bjorn -20
2012 - Martin Kaymer -8
2011 - Lee Westwood -15
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