Lee Westwood makes his 2000 debut when the city of Johannesburg stages the second leg of the South African ‘double header’ on the European Tour with the Mercedes-Benz-S.A. Open Championship at Randpark Club.
The 26-year-old from Worksop finished the old millennium by collecting third place in the Volvo Order of Merit behind Colin Montgomerie and Sergio Garcia – the third successive season that he has filled that position.
Now, refreshed by his winter break, Westwood returns to the fray intent on improving on several close calls in the Volvo Order of Merit – in particular last year when he went into the final round of the WGC-American Express Championship with a realistic chance of toppling Montgomerie from his perch.
In the event, Westwood took fourth place at Valderrama and Montgomerie logged up his record seventh year as No.1 in Europe.
However the 1999 season was full of notable moments for Westwood, who performed superbly in the Masters at Augusta National and held a winning opportunity going into the final nine holes.
He won back-to-back in the TNT Dutch Open and Smurfit European Open in July – producing superb final rounds on each occasion – then notched up his third win from as many starts when he captured the Canon European Masters to hoist his total of European Tour titles to nine.
David Frost of South Africa defends the title he won in Stellenbosch last year – the second oldest national Open (1893) after the Open Championship in Britain (1860). Frost has won the event twice while countryman, Retief Goosen, landed his native Open on its last visit to Randpark in 1995.
Meanwhile Zimbabwe’s Nick Price, Welshman Ian Woosnam, the 1991 Masters champion, and Bernhard Langer – winner of the Green Jacket in 1985 and 1993 – are the three major winners in the field.
Price, the 1994 Open champion and two-time US PGA winner, returns to South Africa where he has been a prolific winner over the best part of two decades. He captured the South African Masters back in 1981, won the Dimension Data Pro-Am and Alfred Dunhill PGA Championship in 1997 and the Zimbabwean Open and Million Dollar Challenge three times apiece.
As well as Westwood, there are seasonal debuts for 1997 Ryder Cup player Thomas Björn of Denmark and Swede Patrik Sjöland, who ended the previous season with an excellent victory in the Hong Kong Open.
And Anthony Wall will be seeking a South African double following his victory in the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
Randpark Club, located in the city of Johanessburg, features two championship 18 - hole golf courses, namely Randpark and Windsor Park. The course, originally designed by Syd Brews, a former South African Open champion and built by Koos de Beer. The course officially opened on 20 March 1971.
In 1995, the course was upgraded by the team of Robbie Marshall and Mark Muller of Golf Data. In that year the Randpark course played host to the Phillips South African Open. Retief Goosen took the honours with a total score of 275, 13-under-par, with Ernie Els as the runner-up.
New championship tees were built in 1999 on five holes, being holes one, five, seven, 12 and 18. The Randpark course is well bunkered and features a number of water hazards. Both hazards will come into play off the championship tees. The greens are well protected by bunkers, some of which are quite treacherous because of their depth.
The 17th is without doubt the hardest par three on the course. The green is extremely long and protected by a water hazard to the left and bunkers on the right, so club selection will be well affected by the pin position.
Hole No.8 offers an attractive tee shot for the big hitters who want to open their shoulders. The tee shot is played into the left side of the fairway leaving a relatively straight lay to the green and a definite birdie opportunity.
The closing hole is a slight dog-leg left with trees along both sides of the fairway. The second shot is across a stream and slightly uphill. The green is with in range of two good shots, but the green is protected by two relatively large bunkers.