Anthony Wall, last year’s winner of the Alfred Dunhill Championship, returns to Houghton Golf Club this week hoping a successful defence will herald a full season’s competition on the 2001 European Tour International Schedule.
Twelve months ago the 25-year-old from Sunningdale claimed his maiden European Tour success with a two shot victory over Phillip Price and Gary Orr in a tournament reduced to 54 holes because of inclement weather.
But, although he went on to finish 44th on the Volvo Order of Merit, the Englishman’s season was interrupted by two spells on the sidelines with glandular fever.
However, refreshed after a winter’s rest, Wall is ready for action but admitted he will have to be at his best to conquer the demanding Johannesburg layout.
“It’s a very good test,’’ said Wall. “It’s always in great condition too, even when it had the amount of rain it did last year, it holds up excellently and that shows how well it is designed.
“It’s also one of those courses where, even though it’s long, you have to position your shots because some holes have the odd tree hanging over the fairway which you don’t want to get stuck behind, and there are also some tricky bunkers on several holes as well.”
Wall will face a high quality field, led by two former champions at Houghton, Germany’s Sven Struver who won over 54 holes in 1996 and Zimbabwe’s Tony Johnstone who triumphed two years later, pipping home favourite Ernie Els.
Also in the field is three time Open champion Nick Faldo and Welshman Phillip Price, who enjoyed his best season to date on the European Tour last year when he finished eighth on the Volvo Order of Merit.
The home challenge is led by Retief Goosen, who finished fourth last year, three shots adrift of Wall, and 26-year-old Desvonde Botes, who won the European Tour Qualifying School at San Roque last November with a record low score of 15-under-par 417.