Ryder Cup stars dominate field for Sun City
LOUIS Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel will lead South Africa's hopes at this year's Nedbank Golf Challenge against a field featuring seven members of Europe's victorious Ryder Cup team.
Among them is defending champion Lee Westwood, who will attempt to become the first man in the 32-year history of the event to win three years in a row.
Hat-tricks here have eluded the world's best, including Seve Ballesteros, Nick Price and Ernie Els.
The 12 players will line up at Sun City's Gary Player Country Club from November 29 to December 2, competing for their share of the $5-million prize pool.
The winner will pocket $1.25-million.
There are three South Africans, eight Europeans and one American, Bill Haas, whose father, Jay, is playing in the Champions Challenge, the senior tournament played at the same time on the same course.
Tom Watson will make his Sun City debut in the eight-strong golden oldies field.
Americans have been rare breeds at the NGC, especially since Tiger Woods started his own tournament on the same weekend.
But things could change next year, says NGC tournament director Alastair Roper.
Woods's tournament has lost its title sponsor, as well as $1-million in prize money.
"My understanding from his [Woods's] people is that if they don't find a sponsor for next year then the event will not continue," said Roper. "So, there's a very good chance that things are going to play into our favour ... that we will attract more Americans (next year)."
But for now the Europeans are the kings of the hill after their stunning come-from-behind victory in the US, dubbed the "Miracle of Medinah".
Westwood, Justin Rose, Paul Lawrie and Martin Kaymer all won their singles matches on that remarkable final day, whereas Francesco Molinari halved his match with Woods and Nicolas Colsaerts and Peter Hanson lost.
British Open champion Ernie Els, based full-time in the US, again declined an invitation to an event where he has made more appearances than anyone else. He has won it three times and pocketed almost $8-million in doing so.
But his children are in school at that time and he is not scheduling a holiday to South Africa so far before Christmas.
Branden Grace's surge up the world rankings came too late to be considered by the September 23 cut-off date, but even so, his ranking of 37 would have been two spots too low for consideration for the NGC.
The only player in the field who is ranked outside that is Garth Mulroy, who qualified by winning the Sunshine Tour's Order of Merit. He is 172nd in the world.
The full field: Lee Westwood (England); Nicolas Colsaerts (Belgium); Bill Haas (US); Peter Hanson (Sweden); Martin Kaymer (Germany); Paul Lawrie (Scotland); Francesco Molinari (Italy); Garth Mulroy (SA); Louis Oosthuizen (SA); Carl Pettersson (Sweden); Justin Rose (England); Charl Schwartzel (SA).