Sun City - Alex Noren’s 14-under-par 274 in last year’s Nedbank Golf Challenge handed the Swede his fourth European Tour title of that season but this week will be a different ball game as a determined nine-man South African contingent aims for nothing less than keeping ‘Africa’s Major’ within the borders come the weekend.
READ: Bookies fancy Englishman for 2017 Nedbank Golf Challenge glory
Noren was trailing by six shots at the Gary Player Country Club when he stood on the first tee for the final round on that eventful weekend.
His thoughts didn’t include winning the title but a ‘good finish’ would satisfy him perfectly, but an eagle on 10 brought his round back to life and from then on there was no stopping him as he went on to claim a six-shot victory ahead of South Korea’s Wang Jeung-hun.
“I wasn’t really thinking about winning at all,” Noren said ahead of this season’s event. “And, just to get a good finish going into Dubai and have a good finish there, kind of build some momentum for Dubai. And then, all of a sudden, yeah, with the eagle on 10. I holed like a big lob shot on 11 and then all of a sudden, I was like ‘I can do this’.”
That victory meant another lost opportunity for a South African player to claim the title and ensure it stayed on home soil.
This week, however, presents yet another chance for a local to reign supreme and Tshwane Open champion, Dean Burmester, is among those presented with this opportunity. While he has had mixed results in his last five starts on the European Tour, Burmester is feeling good ahead of this $7.5 million event.
“I am feeling pretty good. I found the putter that I like,” he said. “I have been struggling with the putter, that’s the only thing that’s been lacking. Last week in Turkey, I hit the ball really well.
“But like I said, I just didn’t find anything on the greens. But now I’m feeling at home and reading the lines very well, so it’s just a question of keeping it in play on a tight course and making a few putts”
And, like any other South African player knows, winning this event will mean more than just another European Tour title in the bag but a fulfilment of a long-held dream.
“It doesn’t get bigger than this, hey.” Burmester notes. “Every little boy that plays golf in South Africa is watching the Nedbank and we watched Ernie and Retief and Trevor, and all the guys. Price, back in the day. And here we are. We’re quite a few South Africans in the field so hopefully, we can keep the trophy right here at home.”
In the effort to try and keep the trophy in South Africa, Burmester is joined in the field by multiple European Tour winners Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen, Brandon Stone, Branden Grace, Haydn Porteous, George Coetzee, Richard Sterne and Dylan Frittelli, who won his first European Tour in June this year.
The last time a South African won the Golf Challenge at Sun City was Trevor Immelman in 2007.