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Ken Borland



Expanded field, points & prizemoney for NGC 0

Posted on February 25, 2016 by Ken

 

This year’s Nedbank Golf Challenge will feature an expanded field of 30 golfers and Official World Golf Ranking and Ryder Cup qualifying points, as well as the increased prizemoney counting for both the European and Sunshine tour orders of merit as insurance against the weakening quality of the entrants.

The selection criteria for the invitational tournament will now cover all the world’s tours. The top 10 willing players from the top 30 of the PGA Tour’s Fedex Cup rankings, the top 10 from the top 30 of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, the winners of the Asian, Japanese and Australasian tour orders of merit and the best of the Sunshine Tour all qualify for the tournament at Sun City.

But it is with the European Tour that the Nedbank Golf Challenge has specifically thrown in its lot, gaining co-sanctioned status from the powerful tour that now rivals America’s PGA Tour.

The European Tour has for a long time enviously eyed the Nedbank Golf Challenge in early December as their golfers go into hibernation in the freezing, dark northern winter.

“This is a great opportunity for the European Tour to finally be involved in and sanction this event,” said Keith Waters, European Tour chief operating officer and director of international policy. He was talking at the launch of the new-look Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sandton on Thursday. “It really resonates with those of us in northern Europe because at that time of year, the weather is grim and nobody’s playing golf, so we always look forward to watching the event on TV. Now we’re officially part of it, which is great.”

The revamped Challenge will also prove to be of greater service to local golf, with at least five South Africans now guaranteed entry into the event.

While the previous year’s winner of the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit is still automatically invited, the opportunity to play at Sun City will now be extended to the winner of the South African Open and the Alfred Dunhill Championship and the top two on the 2013 money-list. To ensure a minimum of five South African golfers, the local invitations will then go according to the Official World Golf Rankings.

“These are very exciting times for us and we now have another co-sanctioned event in South Africa. The Nedbank Golf Challenge is the eighth. I don’t know of any other place that has so many,” said Selwyn Nathan, the executive director of the Sunshine Tour.

“We spoke so much about the Tournament of Hope [which is no longer happening], but the Nedbank Golf Challenge, in its 33rd year, is now our hope for a better future for South African golf. The increased opportunity for our players is a major asset for the Sunshine Tour in terms of inspiring our current stars. We’ve always prided ourselves on being able to open doors for a player to compete in some of the biggest tournaments in world golf and the Nedbank Golf Challenge will bring about an exciting conclusion to our season.”

The 2013 event will take place a week later than usual – from 5 to 8 December – and will have an increased prizemoney pool of $6.5-million, a 30% increase from the $5-million the 12-man field shared last year. The winner will still take away $1.25-million and the 30th place finisher will collect $100,000.

“We wanted to ensure we could still compete with events on all the other tours and not just in South Africa, and the prizemoney is still lucrative enough to attract any golfer,” tournament director Alastair Roper said.

“And we’ve gone a week later in the year and that will give us some protection. That weekend will be ours going forward and there won’t be any other rival European Tour events. Most schools are breaking up later these days and it’s important that the youth come and watch. The Nedbank Golf Challenge is what young golfers aspire to play and they want to emulate the stars they see at Sun City.

“With the prizemoney counting for both the Sunshine and European tour orders of merit and Ryder Cup and Official World Golf Ranking points on offer, it makes it extremely attractive for golfers to travel here for the event. This year the Race to Dubai final will end on 17 November, followed by the South African Open finishing on the 24th and the Alfred Dunhill Championship on 1 December, and we hope our event will also encourage golfers to play in those tournaments,” Roper added.

There had earlier been speculation that the field might be increased to as many as 50 golfers, but Roper said this was not only unaffordable for Sun City but would also dilute the quality of the event.

“We were always a bit nervous about increasing the size of the field, because then you can lose exclusivity and the tournament becomes too big. We discussed this with Keith Waters as far back as 2001 and we thought about 36, but we were never ever going to go bigger than that. The bigger you grow, the more questions you have over quality,” Roper said.

The Nedbank Golf Challenge is certainly now positioned as one of the premium events on the European Tour calendar. Apart from the World Golf Championship events and majors, there are only three tournaments that offer greater prizemoney, and all of them are at the end of the season in the weeks preceding the Sun City carnival – the BMW Masters in China, the Turkish Airlines Open and the World Tour Championship finale in Dubai.

But it seems the European Tour may well want their pound of flesh in return for their backing and Waters, in contradiction to Roper, said they envisioned an increase in the size of the field going forward.

“The Dubai finale has a 60-man field and the three events preceding that, two in China and one in Turkey, are 78-man events. Twelve is definitely too few for us and, as the Nedbank Golf Challenge develops, there is the opportunity to increase the field even further from 30. We hope we can find that balance between what people are used to and what the European Tour needs,” Waters told The Daily Maverick.

Where the Nedbank Golf Challenge has admirably succeeded is in finding a balance between an invitational, exhibition tournament and a regular tour event. There had been speculation that some sort of gimmick such as women’s golfers joining the seniors’ Champions Challenge would be added but, even though Roper said these facets could still be introduced in future, Sun International have gone for quality.

This is surely the better option and, with more South Africans in the field as well, one hopes the public will flock to a rejuvenated Nedbank Golf Challenge at the end of the year.

Qualifying criteria

(a) Defending Champion – Martin Kaymer.

(b) The winner of the 2012 Sunshine Tour Official Order of Merit if not otherwise exempt above – Branden Grace.

(c) The leading 10 available players not otherwise exempt in (a) or (b) above from within the top 30 only of the Final 2013 Fedex Cup.

(d) The leading 10 available players not otherwise exempt in (a), (b) or (c) above from within the top 30 only of the Final 2013 Race to Dubai.

(e) South African players to be selected in order of their position on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) as of Monday 18 November 2013, such that the total number of South African players qualifying through (a) to (d) combined as at the conclusion of the 2013 Race to Dubai is 5* in total.

(f) The winner of the 2012 Asian Tour Order of Merit if not otherwise exempt above. – Thaworn Wiratchant

(g) The winner of the 2012 Japan Golf Tour Order of Merit if not otherwise exempt above. – Hiroyuki Fujita

(h) The winner of the 2012 PGA Tour of Australasia’s Order of Merit if not otherwise exempt above. – Peter Senior

(i) The winner of the 2013 South African Open if not otherwise exempt above (A blank entry will be filed for this winner).

(j) The winner of the 2013 Alfred Dunhill Championship if not otherwise exempt above (A blank entry will be filed for this winner).

(k) The balance of the field will be completed as follows:

(i) The player ranked number one on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit as of Monday 25 November 2013, if not otherwise exempt above.

(ii) The player ranked second on the 2013 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit as of Monday 25 November 2013, if not otherwise exempt above.

(iii) Players selected in ranking order from the OWGR as of Monday 18 November 2013.

After close of entries, should a player in Categories (c) or (d) withdraw, they will be replaced by the next eligible player from within their category, up until 18:00 (local time in Sun City) on Sunday 1 December. Thereafter a withdrawal from these categories will be replaced by the next eligible player from category (k) above. A withdrawal from any other category after close of entries will be replaced by the next eligible player from category (k) above.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-06-21-nedbank-golf-challenge-gets-bigger-in-players-and-stature/#.Vs7sCfl97IU

Schwartzel puts two frustrating years behind him at Leopard Creek 0

Posted on December 01, 2015 by Ken

 

Charl Schwartzel put two years of brutally hard work, frustration and demoralisation behind him as he won the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek on Sunday, cruising to victory by four strokes in the co-sanctioned European/Sunshine Tour event outside Malelane.

It is Schwartzel’s first win since he completed a hat-trick of titles at Leopard Creek in the last week of November 2013; since then his swing disintegrated and he even discovered that his putting had major flaws.

“It feels fantastic to win again because the last two years have been the biggest slump my golf has ever been in, sometimes I would think ‘am I ever going to win again?’ I’ve worked really hard in that time, your expectations get higher and then it’s frustrating when one or two bad rounds mean you just can’t get to the top,” Schwartzel said after his final-round 70 left him on 15-under-par for the tournament.

“There are 13 years of demons running around in my head and that’s a lot of demons to fight. It gets harder, but I feel that I’m a better player. I don’t think I can improve much on what happens on the range – where my game feels flawless – and I just need to bring that game to the golf course more often, I need to make that gap between the two smaller.”

What made the 31-year-old’s 10th European Tour victory even more special was that he did not play anywhere near his best over the weekend but was still able to do what was necessary to win.

“It was a struggle over the weekend, I was way off my best game, but to get it done, to manage my way around, keep the ball in play and grind it out, means I’d give my effort an A+, that’s a big achievement. Jack Nicklaus said he won many tournaments with his B or C game, and that’s what makes this win even more satisfying,” Schwartzel said.

Frenchmen Sebastien Gros and Benjamin Hebert were Schwartzel‘s closest challengers at the start of the final round, but they both fell back, Hebert only managing a level-par 72 to finish third on 10-under and Gros being derailed by successive double-bogeys on the third and fourth holes on his way to a 73 and fourth place on nine-under.

Instead it was the old boy, Gregory Bourdy, who flew the Tricolour highest as he surged into second place on 11-under-par with a 68. Things could have been very different if the 33-year-old hadn’t found the dreaded bunker left of the seventh green, from where he chipped into the water and ended with a six on the par-three.

Another Frenchman, Thomas Linard (70), finished in a tie for fifth on eight-under-par alongside Englishman Matt Ford (70) and Joost Luiten (71) of the Netherlands.

Jaco van Zyl, who fired a 64 for the lowest round of the day, and defending champion Branden Grace (71) were the next best South Africans, in a tie for eighth place on seven-under with Englishman Eddie Pepperell (68).

 

 

 

Englishman & Spaniard lead, but locals well-positioned 0

Posted on October 28, 2015 by Ken

Englishman Matt Ford and Spaniard Edoardo de la Riva are leading the way after the second round of the Africa Open at East London Golf Club on Friday, but four South Africans are just below them, well-positioned to continue the history of local success in the co-sanctioned Sunshine/European Tour event.

Ford, who held a share of the overnight lead with Kevin Phelan, shot a brilliant six-under-par 66 on Friday to go to 11-under-par, one stroke ahead of De la Riva, who also fired a 66 to move to 10-under.

But the South African presence is strong with Jaco van Zyl and Erik van Rooyen in a tie for third with Frenchman Gregory Havret on eight-under, and Trevor Fisher Junior and Neil Schietekat in a tie for sixth on seven-under-par with Germany’s Maximilian Kieffer, Mark Tullo of Chile and Englishmen David Howell and John Parry.

One of the many attractions of East London Golf Club is the multitude of different challenges it can present depending on the weather conditions, and golf here is never boring.

After a blustery first day, the wind switched direction on Friday and calmed down, before regaining strength again in the afternoon.

As Ford pointed out, on the 12th hole on Thursday he hit a driver and four-iron to reach the green, whereas on Friday he hit a driver and then holed a 50 degree wedge for an eagle.

“The wind was just starting to pick up, but the course was very different today and very scorable because conditions were slightly easier. I just wanted to hit good shots and take advantage, and I gave myself lots of opportunities – I was inside 15 feet 11 times but I had a couple of missed putts,” Ford said.

Van Zyl, who has a tremendous record at East London Golf Club, said the course keeps you honest, as shown by his first round when he was three-over on the front nine, before fighting back brilliantly to post a 70.

“This is a very difficult golf course because there are so many different elements. I wasn’t too shocked by my start because the smallest mistake gets magnified a hundred times by this course. But it was really nice to bring it back and today it was much easier in the morning and I was able to capitalise on quite a few holes,” Van Zyl said.

Of all the men in the top-10, Van Zyl has the most experience of winning, except for former world top-10 golfer Howell, and the 13-time Sunshine Tour winner is determined to keep knocking on the door.

“I’ve got to take it one shot at a time and not get ahead of myself. But if I give myself as many opportunities as I can to win, then it has to happen some time. But you’ve obviously got to play nicely and being in contention brings different pressures and expectations. But life will become a lot easier once I get a co-sanctioned win under the belt,” Van Zyl said.

The 36-year-old said it was far from his best ball-striking day, but improved form with the putter means he is strongly in contention midway through the R14.5 million event.

“I’m probably at about 70% of how well I can drive, but now I’m making the putts. I had 27 yesterday and 25 today. Yesterday was really tough though and I was very chuffed I managed to shoot two-under. It was a lot easier this morning, it was totally different today, a lot of the holes were into a little breeze but there were still quite a few holes to capitalise on,” Van Zyl said.

Phelan slipped far down the leaderboard with a level-par 72 and now trails Ford by six shots, while Richard Bland, tied third overnight, also could not break par.

If Van Zyl falters, then Schietekat and Van Rooyen are a pair of younger South Africans for whom there are high hopes and they could get the job done to ensure the trophy stays at home for an eighth year.

“It was quite nice to have some calm weather this morning but I’m not hitting the ball exactly the way I want to. But my putting got me out of trouble and the draw worked nicely for me. Maybe something will happen this weekend … ” Schietekat said.

“I played well at Joburg Open last week and I’m putting really nicely. I couldn’t have asked for a better result today and I’m right in there,” a delighted Van Rooyen said after his 66.

http://citizen.co.za/339531/ford-leads-africa-open/

Four South Africans have Ford in their sights 0

Posted on October 28, 2015 by Ken

 

Matt Ford produced another marvellous round on the second day of the Africa Open at East London Golf Club to lead going into the weekend, but he will have several dangerous pursuers, including four South Africans, in the second half of the co-sanctioned European/Sunshine Tour event.

Ford backed up his 67 in the first round with a six-under-par 66 on Friday and enjoys a one-stroke lead heading into the weekend on 11-under-par.

Kevin Phelan, who shared the first-round lead, and Richard Bland, who was one stroke back, both slipped down the leaderboard, but Ford still has 10 golfers within four shots of him.

Spain’s Edoardo de la Riva is second on 10-under-par after shooting a 66, a score which was matched by Jaco van Zyl and Erik Van Rooyen.  The pair leads the South African charge on eight-under-par alongside Frenchman Gregory Havret.

Two more locals, Neil Schietekat and Trevor Fisher Junior, are on seven-under and share sixth position with Maximilian Kieffer, Mark Tullo, David Howell and John Parry.

South Africans have won all seven previous editions of the Africa Open, and with Van Zyl, Van Rooyen, Schietekat and Fisher Junior all moving up the leaderboard, they have a good chance of continuing that streak.

The 36-year-old Ford has dreamed for a long time of competing on the European Tour, going back to Qualifying School 10 times before finally winning his card last November, and he is looking more and more comfortable at this level, managing to follow a low round with another one for the first time.

“I played nicely today, I’m very happy. It’s been two good rounds and hopefully there are two to come. I gave myself plenty of opportunities and was inside 15 feet 11 times. I was just trying to hit good shots and take advantage of the slightly easier conditions,” Ford said after a round that featured six birdies, an eagle and two bogeys.

But how Ford handles the pressures of the unknown remains to be seen. Van Zyl, with 13 Sunshine Tour titles, has much more experience of winning, even though he is yet to claim a European Tour title, despite having six top-three finishes.

“I’ve got to take it one shot at a time and not get ahead of myself. But if I give myself as many opportunities as I can to win, then it has to happen some time. But you’ve obviously got to play nicely and being in contention brings different pressures and expectations. But life will become a lot easier once I get one under the belt,” Van Zyl said.

The highlight of Van Zyl’s round, which began on the ninth hole, was a run of eagle-birdie-birdie from the third hole, and the 36-year-old said it was down to his putter.

“I’m probably at about 70% of how well I can drive, but now I’m making the putts. I had 27 yesterday and 25 today. Yesterday was really tough though and I was very chuffed I managed to shoot two-under. It was a lot easier this morning, it was totally different today, a lot of the holes were into a little breeze but there were still quite a few holes to capitalise on,” Van Zyl said.

The Dainfern Country Club representative, who is making an impressive comeback from surgery on both knees last year, says he just feels enormously comfortable at East London Golf Club, as long as he is not being blown off his feet by the wind.

“This course just suits my eye. It feels like even if I play 70% of my best I’ll still break par, while on some other courses you can be playing at 100% and still struggle to break par,” Van Zyl said.

Kieffer, a German, produced the round of the day with a top-class nine-under-par 63. He started with a bogey five on the ninth hole, but then went on a superb run of five birdies in seven holes on the back nine.

The front nine started with Kieffer draining a 15-foot putt for eagle on the par-five first hole and a trio of birdies followed to complete a dazzling round which lifted a relative rookie on the European Tour from a tie for 89th position right up to a tie for sixth.

Schietekat is starting to show the consistency on the tour that he showed as a teenager on the amateur circuit and he ensured he stayed in contention with a solid three-under-par 69.

“It was quite nice to have some calm weather this morning but I’m not hitting the ball exactly the way I want to. But my putting got me out of trouble and the draw worked nicely for me. Maybe something will happen this weekend … ” Schietekat said.

http://thesportseagle.co.za/sa-quartet-matt-ford-sights-africa-open/



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