Johannesburg - Players taking part in this year’s Nedbank Golf Challenge (NGC) should not expect a smooth ride at the Gary Player Country Club, thanks to adjustments made to the course ahead of the showdown.
The Sunshine/European Tour co-sanctioned event, dubbed Africa’s Major, tees off at the venue in North West on November 9 and runs until the 12th.
It features an increased field of 72 top players for a purse of $7.5 million (R101.3 million). It is also the penultimate tournament in the Rolex Series on the Road to Dubai.
Members of the media got a first-hand taste a few days ago of how the course will treat the golfers during the event.
The par-four eighth hole, which is the toughest on the course, has been made narrower and is now a fairway surrounded by dense bush.
A water hazard running across the fairway is to be avoided, leaving a medium to long iron uphill approach to a sloping green.
Last year, this green was easy to tackle as it did not have many hazards, but it is a different story this time around.
To exacerbate the woes of the contestants, the 14th hole, which is a par five, has been reworked.
An accurate tee shot is required on this dogleg green.
Players wishing to reach the green in two shots must be aware of the large waste bunker with punishing pampas grass surrounding it.
With heavy rain predicted in the next few days, the grass is expected to be long and make play nearly impossible for the competitors.
Going through the entire course during play, one could sense that greens and fairways need more rain for the rough to be deep and make the course more difficult.
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The venue is closed for the next three weeks ahead of the contest, and organisers are keeping their fingers crossed for the heavens to open up to make the greens tougher and roughs rougher.
NGC tournament director Dan Sevel predicts that the course will be in pristine condition for the event.
“We expect the coming rainfall to make the roughs at the course thick enough to make the contest more competitive than in previous years. We are pleased with the adjustments that have been made on the greens,” Sevel said.
European Tour official Andy Stubbs told City Press that England’s Tommy Fleetwood was the latest player to join the field to compete at Sun City.
Fleetwood currently leads the Race to Dubai, having amassed the most points from 18 events.
“Tommy is celebrating the birth of his first child and he has indicated his keenness to compete at Sun City.
"His presence here will obviously add punch to the tournament, considering his current form on the European Tour,” said Stubbs.
Fleetwood joins Alexander Norén and Henrik Stenson (both from Sweden), Thomas Bjørn (Denmark), and South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Brandon Stone.