Sun City - Charl Schwartzel asked him for a swing tip. Lee
Westwood wanted to know about his horses. Martin Kaymer wanted to hear his
stories about Ben Hogan. For every one of the 30-man field gathered for this
year’s Nedbank Golf Challenge, receiving a personal welcome from Gary Player
during Tuesday’s pro-am made for a memorable start to “Africa’s Major”.
Player had Kaymer in stitches with his
tales of Hogan. “When I first played with Hogan, he said five words to me all
round. They were, ‘Hello fella’ and at the end, ‘Well played, son’. People told
me he must have been talkative that day,” said Player.
Even some of the caddies took time to quiz
Player about the nuances of one of South Africa’s most iconic golf courses.
They asked him how they should read the swirling winds that come in over the
surrounding Pilanesberg Mountains, to the work that went into designing a golf
course that has remained challenging from the days of Ballesteros, Nicklaus,
Trevino and others in 1981 to the 2013 showpiece when Denmark’s Thomas Bjørn
won by two shots.
Bjørn is one of three former champions of
this event in the field, including Kaymer (2012) and Westwood (2010, 2011).
The field also includes three Major
champions, led by Kaymer (2010 PGA Championship, 2014 US
Open) and including Schwartzel (2011 Masters) and Louis Oosthuizen (2010 Open
Bjørn, Kaymer and Westwood are also joined by Jamie Donaldson and
Stephen Gallacher as five of the 12 players who were on the victorious European
Ryder Cup team at Gleneagles. And Kaymer, Westwood and Luke Donald are all
three former world number ones. It all
makes for a tantalizing field with any number of potential winners.
“It’s always great coming back to a golf course where you’ve had
success in the past,” said Westwood.
And those who are making their debut in this event were also
impressed with their first look at the golf course.
“I like the course. There are small greens, so you have to be
accurate with your irons. But it plays to a lot of my strengths, which will be
interesting as the week goes along. It would be nice to finish the year off
strong,” said American Brooks Koepka.
“The course is in great shape,” added Sweden’s Jonas Blixt. “It’s
great being here and a lot of fun. There are a lot of things to do in this
resort. I went on safari yesterday and saw three of the Big Five.”
NEDBANK GOLF CHALLENGE FIELD:
Bjørn (Denmark), Martin Kaymer (Germany), Lee Westwood (England),
Charl Schwartzel (South Africa), Jamie Donaldson (Wales), Stephen
Gallacher (Scotland), Dawie van der Walt (South Africa), Kiradech
Aphibarnrat (Thailand), Luke Donald (England), Miguel Ángel
Jiménez (Spain), Thongchai Jaidee (Thailand), Ross Fisher
(England), Kevin Na (United States), Tim Clark (South Africa),
Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa), Marcel
Siem (Germany), Joost
Luiten (Netherlands), Brooks Koepka (United States),
Shane Lowry (Ireland),
Marc Warren (Scotland),
George Coetzee (South Africa),
Tommy Fleetwood (England),
Danny Willett (England),
Alexander Lévy (France),
Danie van Tonder (South Africa),
Mikko Ilonen (Finland),
Pablo Larrazábal (Spain),
Jonas Blixt (Sweden),
Brendon Todd (United States),
Jaco Ahlers (South Africa)