Sun City course 'a challenge'
Sun City - It often takes a touch of brilliance to win the Nedbank Golf Challenge, but is seems possible this year’s $5-million event could succumb to the blandishments of a kind of under-the-radar consistency the world has rarely seen.
World No 1 Luke Donald can hardly be called an ‘under-the-radar’ player - with five victories around the world in the last 18 months, he topped the US PGA Tour money list and he is likely to top the European Tour Race to Dubai earnings too.
That’s stellar in anyone’s language.
But he is also the kind of player that gathers statistical oddities like going 459 holes without three-putting. And he is deadly accurate getting to the green too - a virtue that is precious around the 7 162m (7 832-yard) Gary Player Country Club.
“It’s a very challenging golf course,” said Donald as he assessed his chances in the 12-man field that includes world No's 3 and 4 in Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer too.
“The rough’s not that up, and I think if the weather conditions are good, you’ll see some birdies, but it tests all facets of your game,” Donald added.
Lining up in the event for the fifth time, Donald does so this time as world No 1 which means his opponents will be taking dead aim at him, as defending champion Westwood discovered last year as he came to the event having just ascended the Official World Golf Ranking summit.
But Westwood produced a commanding performance last year to win by eight strokes in a display that underlined his status as Tiger Woods’ successor.
And what has subsequently happened in world golf is that a group has proved that there are enough players who can produce the brilliant moments - and Kaymer is certainly amongst that group.
So is the only South African in the field, Charl Schwartzel, who won the Masters with a succession of four birdies, and was by far the most consistent player in the world over all four majors.
And while Francesco Molinari, Darren Clarke, Jason Dufner, Kim Kyung-Tae, Graeme McDowell, Simon Dyson, Robert Karlsson and Anders Hansen are capable of the kind of play to win any tournament in the world, there is something about the presence of Donald which seems a little overwhelming.
“It’s been a tremendous run for me, and every time you win, you feel more confident about yourself,” Donald said. “I’m coming off a little bit of a break, and I’m feeling very refreshed.”
He last played on November 11 when he blazed a final-round 64 to win the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic and secure top spot on the PGA Tour earnings list.
“A rest usually helps,” he said. “The way the schedule is set up in golf right now is very busy. There are tournaments in all corners of the world in nearly every week of the year. It’s impossible to do all of them and there are times when you really need to have a break and recharge those batteries.
“Usually after a break, I come back feeling a lot stronger about my game,” he added.
Coming from anyone’s mouth but the quiet Donald’s, that would sound suspiciously like a warning.