Van Rooyen aiming for the top on home soil

Erik van Rooyen is hoping home support at the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player can help fire him to a first Rolex Series title and a tilt at the Race to Dubai next week.

Erik van Rooyen

The Cape Town native has made a big impact since graduating from the Qualifying School in 2016, finishing in the top 40 on the Race to Dubai Rankings Presented by Rolex in a rookie season that also saw him finish fourth at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

He bettered that Rolex Series result last week as he lost out in a play-off at the Turkish Airlines Open and he enters the final two events of the season sat eighth in the race to be Europe's Number One with the help of a maiden victory at the Scandinavian Invitation.

And with a vociferous home crowd behind him at Gary Player Country Club, the 29-year-old is aiming for the very top in Sun City.

"I think it's gone fantastically well," he said. "I made the Race to Dubai at the moment with a realistic chance of winning it. So I think for it being my second year, I've reached many of my goals.

Erik van Rooyen

"My game is right where it needs to be and it's in a good place, especially with being home. I know this golf course really well, I've got a lot of local support. It's only looking up. The people always get behind us South Africans.

"I've got to win. So let's keep the sixes off the card and get as many threes and fours on there. That's it. We're not here for a haircut."

The event this week is often referred to as Africa's Major and Van Rooyen admits it would be a special one to win after watching it as a child.

"I remember watching Ernie (Els) win here in a play-off," he said. "I remember watching Sergio (Garcia) win here. 

"As a kid, there was a rain delay and we're sitting in the grandstand and it's pouring rain and no one's leaving and we're singing "Shosholoza" or something like that. I've got really good memories."

Christiaan Bezuidenhout

Another home favourite with great memories of this event is Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who is making his Nedbank Golf Challenge debut this week.

The 25-year-old won his maiden European Tour event at the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation earlier this season and at 17th on the Race to Dubai Rankings Presented by Rolex, is delighted to have made it to the penultimate event of the campaign.

"It's a dream come true," he said. "I've seen this event live since I was nine years old coming here with my family and stuff. This event is a big highlight for all the South African golfers and people that like the sport. Just to be thought of is a real honour and it should be a special week.

"Every year you try to qualify for the final events and I had a special year. Best year of my career so far. 

"To give myself a chance to reach my goals at the end of the year that I've set for myself - one of them was to finish in the Race to Dubai inside the top 20, so it's still in play and I'm looking forward to this week."

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