US Open Champion Justin Rose is hoping to bring down the curtain on the most successful year of his career with a victory at the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
Born in Johannesburg, the Englishman has strong ties with South Africa with some of his closest family still living in the country where he won his professional title at the 2002 Nashua Masters.
Rose is always a popular figure with South African fans and he will be given a hero’s reception at the Gary Player Country Club when he is announced on the first tee as the reigning US Open Champion.
“This is one of my favourite tournaments of the year,” said Rose, back in action after a two week break at home.
“South Africa’s very close to my heart, not only because I was born here, but also because I have a lot of family here. My brother lives in Joburg and my mom lives down in George. I haven’t seen them all for quite a while and from that perspective it’s wonderful to catch up.
“To play in front of South African crowd who love their sport is always good fun so I am really looking forward to it.
“We’ll see how this week goes – I have had a two week break so I’m just going to take it slow and steady, and try to play my way into a bit of form. My game is never far away and I’ve been playing consistently for the whole year so I expect to put myself in the mix to some degree.”
Rose will no doubt be joined in the mix by the likes of Henrik Stenson, Ernie Els, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Luke Donald as 30 of the world’s very best players do battle for the US$6.5 million prize fund on offer at Sun City.
Stenson, of course, is the world’s form player who is enjoying a run of form that saw him become the first man in history to win The European Tour’s Race to Dubai and the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup in the same season.
The Swede is also a former champion of the Nedbank Golf Challenge having lifted the title in 2008 and would love to add to that, especially as the tournament is featuring on The European Tour for the first time in its illustrious 33-year history.
“This is a very special tournament and a place that I just love coming back to,” said the World Number Three. “I love the golf course – you have to be very precise with your iron play around here and that was the real key to my victory here.
“It’s an exciting time for the tournament with the changes in place and the field increasing to 30 players and now being a part of The Race to Dubai. The increase in the field brings more guys into it obviously and makes it more difficult to win given the quality of the field but I am sure all the guys are looking forward to the chance.
“One thing that won’t change is the atmosphere around the tournament. It is one of those great weeks on Tour where the players are looked after so well and we get to enjoy this amazing resort and all the good things that come with it.”
Of all the players in the field, no-one has won this event more than Els. The big South African has registered a hat-trick of victories here (1999, 2000 and 2002) and remains the biggest draw in town for the huge galleries that will flock to the Gary Player Country Club this week.Oosthuizen is looking ominous having finally shaken off the niggling back injury that has plagued his season, while Schwartzel and Donald still have the taste of victory in their mouths having respectively triumphed at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa and the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan.