Will Thomas or Homa soar at Sun City, or will a local feel inspired by the Boks?
Leading the SA charge will be former champion Branden Grace, while Zander Lombard has also done well in the Pilanesberg before.
Justin Thomas of the USA during Wednesday’s pro-am ahead of the Nedbank Golf Challenge starting Thursday. Picture: Warren Little/Getty Images
Which South African golfer will feel inspired by the Springboks’ triumph at the 2023 Rugby World Cup and launch a serious assault on the Nedbank Golf Challenge title at the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City this week?
The last time a local won “Africa’s Major” was in 2017 when Branden Grace came out on top and before him, we have to go all the way back to 2007 when Trevor Immelman finished first.
Grace is back looking for title number two this week, and he’ll be joined by five other South Africans who’ll be keen to get their name on the honours board.
Few SA wins
Ockie Strydom, Thriston Lawrence, Hennie du Plessis, Louis de Jager and Zander Lombard are the other locals in the 66-man field, who’ll tee it up in the first round on Thursday.
It’s been a lean few years in Major golf for the South Africans, with just a win here and there on the DP World Tour and PGA Tour — the last coming as recently as last weekend when an emotional Erik van Rooyen won a tournament in Mexico — so perhaps the Boks’ back-to-back win in France nearly two weeks ago now will inspire another strong South African showing on the fairways at Sun City this week.
Lombard, who led the tournament in 2019 when England’s Tommy Fleetwood won for the first time (he won again last year) says he feels that experience could be of some help this week.
“It’s great to be back. It’s always a special week, with friends and family who come to support,” said Lombard.
“It’s also great to have some of the PGA Tour golfers here … it adds to the value of this event. I’m looking forward to all the challenges this week.”
The PGA players Lombard refers to are Justin Thomas and Max Homa, both well-known figures around the world and recent participants in the Ryder Cup.
“I’ve got nothing to lose and will just play my best,” said Lombard. “My game is in a good place. My head is in a good place.”
PGA Tour stars
Thomas, who’s struggled somewhat this year and didn’t qualify for the season-ending FedEx Cup playoffs on the PGA Tour, said he was excited about playing “Africa’s Major”.
“I am so excited to get to Sun City and experience everything South Africa has to offer,” said Thomas, a two-time Major winner, before arriving in the country for the tournament.
“It is a country I have always wanted to visit and this tournament gives me the opportunity not only to do that, but to compete in such an historic event.
“It’s been spectacular (being here). I know what I’ve seen on TV (about South Africa), but you don’t know what to expect until you get here. It’s been great.”