An event that once appeared to be on the brink of extinction is now set to roar back to life with an expanded field of 30 players tackling the layout at the Gary Player Country Club.
The event is now also co-sanctioned with the European Tour, which means that it’s not only official world ranking points on offer for a good week in the Pilanesberg, but also valuable Ryder Cup points for players looking to stake a claim for place in next year’s renewal.
“The tournament has had the same format for many years. 30 people are still a very limited field and it gives more guys the opportunity to see what the Nedbank Golf Challenge has to offer, and in that way it’s very positive,” Charl Schwartzel said of the new format following his impressive victory in the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek on the weekend.
The change has also received support from Darren Fichardt as the 38-year-old prepares to make his debut at the event.
Fichardt received an invitation to appear at the $6.5-million event by virtue of the fact that he led the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit until last weekend as Schwartzel surpassed him at the summit.
“When you are young it’s the one you want to play. It’s the Million Dollar. Compared to the other tournaments it’s fantastic.
“There aren’t many events that have an elite field and no cut. I could get used to that,” Fichardt said.
“I think it’s great,” he added of the expansion. “They should have done it a long time ago. The expanded format makes it a lot more competitive.
“It’s a lot tougher to beat 29 guys than to beat 11 guys. Anyone can win and I don’t think it’s going to be as relaxed as it’s been in the past. The guys in the bottom six normally relax, but I think it’s going to be a lot more competitive this year.”