Els (3), Harringon (3), Retief Goosen (2) and Oosthuizen (1) bring the total of golf’s big-four championships to nine, but more importantly for South African fans the “Big Easy”(Els) is making his first appearance since 2007.
The three-time NCG champion and all-time leading money winner at the event is a huge coup for the organisers, and tournament director Alastair Roper is thrilled at the quality of the field, with potential world No 1 Lee Westwood also among the 12.
“We can never hope to make accurate predictions, but judging by the form shown by our invitees this year it is fair to assume that we can look forward to a thrilling contest,” said Roper. “We were always hopeful that we could secure the participation of the very best players for what is a very special tournament, and I am pleased to say that we have achieved this.”
Along with Els, Goosen and Oosthuizen, Tim Clark, who has also had an excellent year on the PGA Tour with a victory in The Players Championship, the South African challenge is a very strong one.
Taking them on will be a strong international contingent led by Lee Westwood, the highest-ranked player in the field currently at number two in the world, and who is likely to move into the number one position at the end of October. “Lee has made no secret of the fact that he loves competing in Sun City, and his acceptance of our invitation was most pleasing,” said Roper.
“He has made a lot of friends in South Africa and his performances over the last two seasons would suggest that he is ready to take revenge for his defeat in the playoff against Ernie 10 years ago.”
This year there is an intriguing mix of talent that includes Italian sensation Eduardo Molinari, who has taken the European Tour by storm. He has the personality and a style of play that is sure to increase his fan base in Sun City. With Justin Rose and Ross Fisher also competing, two established stars that are also at the top of their games, there is no shortage of young firepower.
The experienced Harrington, who makes his first appearance since winning a trio of major titles, and the revitalised Miguel Angel Jimenez, will also add spice to the tournament.
Defending champion Robert Allenby has again been the model of consistency this year, and although Anders Hansen will be considered to be an outsider in this company, if he can produce the brand of golf that earned him the Sunshine Tour’s order of merit last season he will not be outclassed.
“We obviously base our selection criteria on world rankings and performances in the major championships when we issue our invitations. Our aim is to secure the participation of 12 top-ranked players in the world, but that is unrealistic,” said Roper.
“Tiger Woods hosts the Chevron World Challenge which is scheduled for the same week, and this puts us in a difficult position. The lack of top American players in the field is unfortunate — the likes of Jim Furyk will be defending his Chevron title, and Phil Mickleson, has committed to play in Japan the same week as our tournament.” — SuperSport.com