The European Tour will perform something of a continental shift this week as the players move from Asia to Africa for the dunhill championship at the Leopard Creek Golf Club, Mpumalanga, South Africa, where Europe’s Number One, Ernie Els, will begin the defence of his European Tour Order of Merit title.
The dunhill championship, joint sanctioned with the Sunshine Tour, is the third event of The 2005 European Tour International Schedule and represents the last chance of the year for Members to make a winning start before the Christmas break.
While Germany’s Marcel Siem will be defending the title he deservedly won at Houghton Golf Club last year, the home crowds will be flocking to Leopard Creek for one Big Easy reason.
South Africa’s Els, the World Number Three, will be in town to commence his bid for a third successive European Tour Order of Merit title after retaining the honour with a sensational run of results during the 2004 season.
The 35 year old finished Number One with a record €4,061,904 and three victories, including the World Golf Championships – American Express Championship at Mount Juliet Conrad. He also captured both the Heineken Classic and the HSBC World Match Play for the third successive season, his victory in the HSBC World Match Play being his record sixth triumph in the event.
He season was supplemented by two US PGA Tour titles and came within a finger touch of winning all four Majors Championships in 2004. With a bit more fortune at the right times, Els could have walked away with the Grand Slam, but missed out on the Open Championship in a play-off, the Masters Tournament and US PGA Championship by a single shot and was in the last group for the final round of the US Open.
All of the above makes Els a clear favourite to win, but such is the nature of golf, the World Number Three will not have everything his own way and he will meet strong resistance from a field packed with quality players.
Among them will be another home favourite in Richard Sterne who will be looking for a second victory in as many appearances on The European Tour International Schedule having won on his last outing in the Open de Madrid at the end of the 2004 season.