“It’s great to be back as defending champion and hopefully I can do it again, so let’s see what happens. I remembered some good holes and nice putts, and I’d like to build on those going into the week,” he said.
Last year’s victory was a breakthrough for Nel, who has nine top-10 results to his name.
“It means a lot to win, because it gives you exemptions to play, which is huge. You can relax and just play the game without worrying about keeping your card. A win changes everything, no matter if it’s small or big, so that’s the goal,” he said.
This week’s 54-hole tournament plays out at Wild Coast Sun Country Club, a 5807-metre track that finds its defence in the sea breezes that pick up in the afternoon.
Tee times have an effect on everyone’s chances and Nel can attest to that – he won the 2014 tournament after it was reduced to 36 holes due to gale-force winds.
The 31-year-old lives in Pietermaritzburg and enjoyed coming back to ‘home territory’ for this week’s tournament.
“I grew up in Natal, so I’ve always enjoyed the wind. It all depends on which side of the draw you’re on, that’s crucial down at the coast. But it’s the same for everyone and I feel good in the wind, so that’s a positive for me,” he said.
Despite the gusty conditions in 2014 he managed to reach 10-under-par after two rounds when he carded consecutive 65s to leave Ulrich van den Berg and Jared Harvey in a tie for second place.
Nel will tee up on Wednesday looking to post some low numbers and give himself a chance to successfully defend his title.
“The game feels good, but you’ve still got to make a score. We’ll try to put things together and see if it’s good enough at the end of the week.
“As a professional you strive to make it all come together in one week. I struggled with my putting at the last tournament, but I was hitting it really well, so hopefully I can get it all to click here on the Wild Coast,” he said.