The BMW SA Open hosted by City of Ekurhuleni is the longest running co-sanctioned event on the European Tour. Never has that been more evident than this week at Glendower Golf Club with South African Ernie Els hosting the event and the likes of Rory McIlroy teeing it up. The Sunshine Tour have announced the draw for the first two rounds of this year’s event and they have produced some interesting groups.
Tournament host and five-time winner Ernie Els will tee off alongside 2015 champion Andy Sullivan and South Africa's Thomas Aiken at 6.50am on Thursday. Should the 47 year old lift the trophy on Sunday, he would become the fourth most prolific winner of the SA Open, behind Gary Player (13 wins), Bobby Locke (nine) and Sid Brews (eight).
World Number Two Rory McIlroy will get his event underway with defending champion Brandon Stone and three-time European Tour winner George Coetzee at 7.10am. McIlroy finished third in his last appearance at this event, at a different course, back in 2009 but has never won a professional event in South Africa before. Stone, who won by two shots 12 months ago, will look to become just the second player to successfully defend the BMW SA Open title since it became a European Tour event, matching Trevor Immelman’s feat back in 2004.
Six-time Major champion Sir Nick Faldo is making his first start in a regular European Tour event since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in 2014. The Englishman hasn't played the SA Open since 1999 at Stellenbosch Golf Club. He will tee off at 11.50am on Thursday with fellow Englishman Richard Bland and South Africa's Justin Walters.
Playing behind Faldo, Bland and Walters will be the all-South African trio of Retief Goosen, Darren Fichardt and Hennie Otto. Goosen, who has nine top six finishes at the SA Open, would become the oldest winner of the event should he lift the trophy for the second time on Sunday.
Two groups further back, 2016 Challenge Tour Number One Jordan Smith will get his 2017 underway with 2007 BMW SA Open champion James Kingston and Spain's Adrian Otaegui for company.
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