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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.

62 came ‘out of the blue’ for Henning 0

Posted on September 15, 2015 by Ken

South African veteran Nic Henning has not finished in the top 100 of the Sunshine Tour order of merit since 2009 and he readily admitted that his record-equalling nine-under-par 62 in the first round of the Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club on Thursday had come out of the blue.

“I have no idea where today’s round came from, the last couple of years I’ve been playing horrible golf and you can see that in my results. But I’ve been playing a lot recently and it feels fantastic, it’s been a long time since I’ve had such a good round,” Henning said.

The 45-year-old reached the milestone of 300 Sunshine Tour tournaments in September 2010, having turned pro in 1992, and Thursday’s glorious round was perhaps reward for his sheer determination to keep going through many lean years.

“You’ve just got to keep on going, fortunately I did well enough earlier in my career to qualify for this tournament through the career money-list, because pre-qualifying, which I had to do a couple of years ago, is really hit-and-miss. But you’ve got to just keep grinding away and believing you can do it,” Henning, the nephew of South African golfing great Harold, said.

His round of 62 equals the course record for the West Course set by Desvonde Botes in 2007, but the more challenging East Course lies in wait in Friday’s second round. Except for the 66s shot on the East Course by another South African veteran, Wallie Coetsee, and Englishman Sam Hutsby, all the other golfers in the top-10 on the leaderboard played on the West Course.

“My confidence is okay but I’m a bit apprehensive because the East Course is much tougher, but the secret is driving the ball nicely. Fortunately, throughout my 24 years on tour my driving has been very good.

“But today was only one round and I hope tomorrow brings a decent round as well. I’m just thinking about that first tee shot,” Henning said.

Two other seasoned local golfers, Titch Moore and Tjaart van der Walt, as well as Thomas Pieters of Belgium, also tamed the West Course with eight-under-par 63s.

Pieters eagled the par-five 15th, but then dropped shots on the 16th and 18th holes to leave him a little irritated.

Scoring is usually low on the West Course, but there is still plenty of timber to ensnare the errant golfer. Nevertheless, there were a host of cheerful golfers coming off that side of Royal Johannesburg and Kensington, with South Africans Dean Burmester and Garth Mulroy, as well as Australian Jason Scrivener, shooting 64s, and Joachim B. Hansen, Scott Henry, Byeong-hun An, Jorge Campillo, Andrew Curlewis and Simon Dyson carding 65s to join Coetsee and Hutsby on six-under.

Defending champion George Coetzee is sitting comfortably a stroke further back after a 66 on the West Course, while Thomas Aiken is also on five-under-par after a 67 on the East Course.

Two-time champion Richard Sterne is on three-under, while newly-announced European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke is on level-par.

Apart from Henning’s heroics, the other highlight of the day was the hole-in-one Moore registered on the 98-metre par-three fifth hole.

“I got off to a nice start and was a couple-under. I got up to the fifth and it was a perfect yardage for my 58-degree wedge, I pitched it a little behind the flag and it spun in. It never looked like it was going to miss. To make a one on the card is always special. It was awesome,” Moore said.

While the ace obviously helped catapult Moore up the leaderboard, it was a top-class round in general by the 39-year-old.

“I’m pleased with the round and to shoot eight-under on the West is always a good start. I played nicely and hit a lot of greens. I gave myself a lot of chances and putted solid,” Moore said.

Van der Walt was also delighted with his round after his comeback from a fatigue-inducing illness which now has him on a strict diet.

“It’s a lengthy process, but I’m getting fitter and stronger. I only had 25-26 putts today and that’s what it’s all about, as well as confidence. Golf is a sport we tend to over-complicate, but you play better when you simplify things,” Van der Walt said.

Order of Merit triumph means Aiken is finally playing in Nedbank Golf Challenge 0

Posted on March 24, 2015 by Ken


Thomas Aiken has been watching the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City since he was seven years old and now he will finally be playing in the event following his nailbiting triumph in the Sunshine Tour’s Order of Merit in the final event, the South African Open, at Glendower Golf Club at the weekend.

Aiken faced a terrifying two-putt from about 90 feet on the last hole for par to ensure a top-10 finish in the SA Open and enough of a payday to overtake Danie van Tonder in the final Order of Merit, and the 31-year-old left himself with a knee-wobbling 10-footer, which he curled into the hole.

The three-time winner on the European Tour eventually finished in a six-way tie for fifth and earned R430 000, while Van Tonder shot a 75 in the final round to finish tied-55th and made R52 500. That meant Aiken beat Van Tonder to first place on the Order of Merit by just over R157 000, but if he had bogeyed the last hole, that one stroke would have left him R1300 behind his young compatriot.

“I didn’t want to know the permutations but I knew a top-10 finish may be enough, so I was aiming top-five to make sure. With three holes to play, I knew I was tied eighth or ninth, so I said to myself that the worse-case scenario was three pars.

“I made good putts on 16 and 17, but then a really poor iron shot on 18, because I was trying to be too safe. I was far enough from the hole that I couldn’t see it and then my second putt was a good 10 feet away. It was maybe worse than having a putt to win a tournament, but I managed to make one of my best putts ever,” Aiken said.

“Winning the Order of Merit is something I’ve been looking forward to since I started playing on the Sunshine Tour in 2002. I’ve been close before and it’s nice to finally get it under the belt. Winning the Sid Brews Trophy is very nice and winning the money-list is obviously a feat because this is one of the five main tours in the world. But it also comes with substantial perks that can make your career – I’m into the British Open, the Memorial, three World Golf Championship events and the Nedbank Golf Challenge, which I’ve dreamed about playing in since I was a kid in the early 90s,” the born-and-bred Johannesburger said.

Winning the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit means Aiken, who has a full card on the European Tour, must have sacrificed to so strongly support his local tour and he said it was because he loves the grand old courses that so many of the co-sanctioned events are played on.

Glendower is certainly one of those and Royal Johannesburg and Kensington, where he will tee it up in the Joburg Open from February 26, is too, but he will sadly miss out on the Africa Open at the old-style East London Golf Club because of his qualification for the WGC Cadillac Championship at the Blue Monster in Florida at the same time.

When Van Tonder shot 78 in the first round at Glendower, his Order of Merit hopes seem to have been dashed, but he birdied his last three holes in the second round to make the cut and Aiken said this typified the gutsy youngster.

“Danie has played extremely well all year, there are few 23-year-olds that can be that consistent all year and he’s had multiple wins. He’s a very tenacious young man  and he has the fiery spirit to make it, he grinds through when the chips are down, he has BMT – like he showed when birdieing the last three holes to make the cut,” Aiken said.



Record-breaking Sterne on top in Joburg 0

Posted on May 30, 2013 by Ken

Richard Sterne won the Joburg Open by a commanding seven strokes on Sunday, finishing the co-sanctioned event at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club on a new record score of 27-under-par 260 and going to the top of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai order of merit.

Sterne began the final round level with fellow South African Trevor Fisher Jnr on 19-under-par and the battle was tight to begin with, Fisher eagling the first hole while Sterne picked up a birdie.

Sterne birdied the par-three second hole as well after a superb tee-shot to three feet and claimed a one-shot lead when Fisher bogeyed the third.

But the stretch of holes between the sixth and eighth holes was where Sterne really won the tournament and where it all went wrong for Fisher.

Sterne’s precision golf earned him a run of three successive birdies, while a bad miss for par on the sixth and a wayward drive under a tree on the seventh led to consecutive bogeys for Fisher and the 33-year-old was suddenly facing a six-shot deficit as they reached the ninth hole.

Sterne, the 2008 champion, played top-class golf as he closed with a 64, hitting 12 out of 14 fairways off the tee and 17 greens in regulation during his magnificent round.

Despite picking up a birdie on the ninth, Fisher was still in need of a miracle to catch Sterne, but the gap only grew wider as he double-bogeyed the par-four 11th after an awful drive way right into the trees and then a second shot into the stream in front of the green.

Sterne, meanwhile, continued to have the measure of the tough Royal Joburg East Course as he picked up three more birdies on the back nine and finished the tournament with just one bogey in 72 holes.

While Fisher failed to give Sterne any sort of workout on the final day, shooting a 73 to finish in a tie for sixth on 18-under, there was an intriguing battle for second place.

Charl Schwartzel, who has always done well at Royal Joburg, winning the title in 2010 and 2011, eventually muscled his way into the runners-up spot on 20-under with birdies on the last two holes.

Schwartzel was once again in solid form, shooting a six-under 66, but his game just lacked that extra oomph required for him to challenge Sterne.

It was a tough battle though with fellow South African George Coetzee, who shot a 67, and Chile’s Felipe Aguilar and Portugal’s Ricardo Santos, who fired a brilliant 64, finishing on 19-under.

South Africans Keith Horne and Thomas Aiken finished in the tie for sixth with Fisher on 18-under-par.

The 17th hole dished out more misery for Fisher as he three-putted from eight feet and the 2012 Sunshine Tour Players’ Player of the Year was a relieved man when he eventually left the course with a birdie on 18.

Sterne also made birdie on the par-five last hole after blasting out of a greenside bunker to three feet, cleaning up the rest of the field by a record seven strokes.

Schwartzel held the previous records for both the lowest winning score (-23) and biggest winning margin (six strokes), set during his 2010 triumph.

Sterne’s 260 72-hole total has only been bettered five times in European Tour history, by Ian Woosnam, David Llewellyn (both 258), Tiger Woods and South Africans Ernie Els and Mark McNulty (all 259).

Els’s 29-under to win the Johnnie Walker Classic in Australia in 2003 remains the lowest winning score in terms of par, with Sterne now joint second with Jerry Anderson and Louis Oosthuizen.

Oosthuizen’s 27-under 265 to win the Africa Open in East London last year was the previous lowest winning total in a co-sanctioned event in South Africa.

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