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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 & Coetzee lead after daunting day at Millvale 0

Posted on February 05, 2016 by Ken

 

Millvale Private Retreat is a little-known championship course hidden away in the fertile bushveld between the Magaliesburg and Pilanesberg ranges and there is very limited access for golfers, which is maybe not such a bad thing considering how darn difficult it was to play on the opening day of the Chase to the Investec Cup final on Thursday.

With slick greens, numerous bunkers and a gusting, awkward wind, Millvale put the top 30 golfers on the Sunshine Tour to the test and it was no surprise the two who came out tops were class performers in Charl Schwartzel and George Coetzee.

They both shot four-under-par 68s and were three shots ahead of Justin Harding and Shaun Norris, the only other golfers to break par.

Schwartzel is trying to groove his swing ahead of the Masters, which starts at Augusta on April 9, and he seems to be making rapid progress in that regard, as well as cracking the code for how to succeed at Millvale.

“For a while now I’ve been working out my swing and it’s getting better and better. It’s a matter of trusting it out on the course, because it doesn’t matter on the range. So today was a good round in hard conditions, it was challenging and anything under par was good,” Schwartzel said.

In terms of Masters preparation, the greens were also to Schwartzel’s liking, although he said Augusta would ask even more of his putter.

“The greens definitely had speed and they’re up with the best I’ve seen here. You don’t often get greens at this speed in South Africa and I was very pleased to see that. We’re not used to having that in South Africa and when I played Lost City on Tuesday, the greens there were very slow, so I hope they speed them up for our two rounds there on Saturday and Sunday.

“But today was more than good enough practice for Augusta, although the greens there have even more slope and the ball just doesn’t stop,” Schwartzel said.

While Schwartzel was fairly consistent with six birdies and just two dropped shots, Coetzee had a round which he described as “all over the show” – two bogeys, an eagle, six birdies and a double-bogey were all crammed into his wild round in the Limpopo River watershed.

“I don’t know how I shot four-under because my game was all over the show. This is not the easiest course to play in the wind and the speed of the greens was very fast and the placement of the pins meant you had to really plot your way around the course, it was hard work,” Coetzee said.

A run of eagle and four successive birdies from the par-five seventh hole was key to Coetzee’s success and, being sponsored by Investec, the owners of Millvale, he admitted some local knowledge really helped.

“The eagle on seven was a bit of local knowledge because I know there is a small gap on the left and you’re able to take it on with driver. For my second I hit a seven-iron to three feet,” Coetzee said.

http://citizen.co.za/347133/schwartzel-coetzee-came-out-tops/

Els wants local SA Open winner this year before big plans for next year 0

Posted on January 07, 2016 by Ken

 

 

Tournament ambassador Ernie Els is desperate for a local winner of the South African Open at Glendower Golf Club this year, but for next year’s event he has big plans to bring out Rory McIlroy and other top international golfers for the second oldest national open in the game, which starts on Thursday.

After three successive foreign winners of the South African Open – Andy Sullivan and Morten Orum Madsen at Glendower and Henrik Stenson at Serengeti, Els said on Tuesday that it was time for a team effort by the South Africans to ensure the prestigious trophy returns home.

“We’ve always prided ourselves on winning our national open, but for the last few years the foreigners have come and taken the trophy. I know it’s not a team competition, but I can guarantee you that the South African guys are going to pull together to try and take the trophy back because the foreigners are starting to take over. Branden Grace has not won it yet and I know he’s desperate to do it and I think George Coetzee is taking it very seriously this year as well. The local guys really want to win it,” Els said.

But from next year, Els himself will make it even harder for the home golfers as he plans to bring world number three and four-time major winner McIlroy over for the tournament.

“I’ve got Rory to commit to playing in the tournament, although I gave him some time to do it, a couple of years. For those top guys in the world, their schedule is so condensed, but I’m sure next year we’ll get him down here, maybe we’ll put him up in Cape Town for New Year’s.

“Rory has been such a great friend and supporter of our charities, as have other great players too. They’re all great lovers of South Africa, guys like Chubby Chandler and Lee Westwood are in Cape Town right now. I’m beginning to find my feet as the tournament ambassador and I want to make the field stronger. The top couple of golfers in the world have horribly busy schedules but I’m getting commitments from them,” Els said.

As for Ernie’s own game, the five-time winner of the SA Open had, by his own admission, an awful 2015, but he has spent many hours playing while also getting himself refreshed over the festive season.

“It was tough last year, as bad as it’s ever been, I missed some really short putts and I had tennis elbow. But I took time off, I feel refreshed and I feel up for it. I’d love to be in the top-50 again by the end of the year and I played a lot in December in Oubaai,” Els said.

 

 

Six golfers lead heading into Tshwane Open final round 0

Posted on January 01, 2016 by Ken

Six golfers put themselves at the top of the leaderboard on Saturday, sharing a one-shot lead as the Tshwane Open enters what will be a thrilling final round at Pretoria Country Club on Sunday.

South Africans Wallie Coetsee, George Coetzee and Trevor Fisher Junior, as well as Scotland’s Craig Lee, Englishman David Horsey and Spaniard Adrian Otaegui, are all on nine-under-par, one stroke ahead of locals Ockie Strydom and Erik van Rooyen.

Lee, looking to claim his first European Tour title after some close misses in the past, fired a four-under-par 66 on Saturday to vault up the leaderboard, having started the day tied for 13th place.

Coetsee and Coetzee, both proud boereseuns, shot two-under-par 68s to claim a share of the lead, while Fisher Junior, looking for back-to-back European Tour titles after last weekend’s breakthrough win at the Africa Open, and Horsey both posted 69s.

Otaegui, who blazed to a 62 in the second round to claim a two-shot lead, had the least impressive round of the half-dozen leaders, battling to a two-over-par 72.

The 22-year-old was one-under for the round as he reached the ninth hole, but three bogeys in five holes followed.

“I played pretty well until the ninth. I missed the tee-shot on the left and had the wrong strategy and tried to go for the green. Then I made another couple of bogeys after that, but I’m happy and made a few good putts. I’m trying to keep the rhythm for better tee shots tomorrow.

“The fairways were a bit harder and the ball flew a bit longer. I played okay and I’m pretty confident for tomorrow,” Otaegui said.

The Pretoria Country Club faithful will certainly be behind Coetzee, a long-time member, and the one-time European Tour winner said the changes to his game that he has struggled to bed down over the last year are starting to produce the goods.

“Every day it gets a bit closer to what I want and today was the first time in a year I can say it was pure ball-striking. It’s nice to get the game gelling properly and local knowledge does help in terms of knowing exactly what to expect when I’m in trouble, but it’s not going to get me over the line,” Coetzee said.

The fairytale winner, however, would be Coetsee, the journeyman who is in his 23rd year as a Sunshine Tour pro and has just two titles to show for it. But since earning his Asian Tour card in a gruelling qualifying school in Thailand in January, the 42-year-old has gone on an astonishing run of form that has seen him finish tied second in the Joburg Open and tied-45th in the Africa Open, the R1.1 million he has earned in the last two weeks making up 26% of his career winnings!

“I’ve got my Sunshine Tour card, my Asian Tour card and now it’s time for the European Tour card. I’m hitting the ball so well and I love the pressure, it’s lekker. I took a lot out of leading the Joburg Open in the final round and finishing second. When something bad like that happens, you think it’s terrible at the time, but in the end it’s the best thing because you learn from your mistakes. But hopefully I don’t learn anything tomorrow!” the genial Coetsee joked.

The marketing gurus have come up with the slogan “It’s more than just golf!” for the Tshwane Open, and Fisher Junior can attest to that as his more relaxed attitude on the course, after his father succumbed to cancer two years ago, has seen the father of two gain perspective and take pains not to define himself through his golf.

The result has been a life-changing win at East London Golf Club and the possibility of another lucrative pay-day in Pretoria.

The likeable Modderfontein golfer is adept at rebounding from tough times and, after four bogeys in five holes from the third, he claimed back-to-back birdies on the eighth and ninth holes, and three more on the back nine to join the leaders.

“It was tough today. You can see from the scores that no one moved today. If it’s gusty like this then you have to grind. The wind was all over the show. I think it was the windiest day here so far. It swirls so much that you don’t know what you’re doing with the yardages and the greens are quite firm, so it was tough to up-and-down.

“But I’m very happy with how I finished. If you said to me after six holes that I would finish with a one-under 69, I would have taken it. I started badly, but my swing felt good. I was a bit unlucky on a few holes and the putter was saving me,” Fisher Junior said.

Horsey, who shared the first-round lead with Morten Orum Madsen, who is one of a trio of European golfers on seven-under with Raphael Jacquelin and Edoardo Molinari, also managed to avoid the big numbers on a day when he struggled to get close to the flags, thanks in part to the tricky, shifting breeze at Pretoria Country Club.

“I didn’t give myself really good chances for birdie and struggled a bit with distance-control. It was difficult to get it close and that makes it hard to make birdie. All things considered it was a decent score and I’m reasonably pleased with how I am playing. The wind has been tricky for the last three days. It seems to pick up and drop, which made choosing the right club very difficult,” Horsey said.

The chase for the R2.9 million first prize is not limited to the top 11 golfers on seven-under or better though; South Africans Tjaart van der Walt, Justin Walters and Dean Burmester, and Sweden’s Mikael Lundberg, are all on six-under, just three shots off the pace.

http://citizen.co.za/344166/six-golfers-top-at-tshwane-open/

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