If there were any doubts about the strength of the Sunshine Tour, the fact that there are three players inside the world’s top 100 in this week’s Investec Cup should settle any arguments.
World number 48 Richard Sterne is the highest ranked player in the 30-man field which tees off on Thursday at Millvale Private Retreat for the first round of the R1-million tournament – the second round will be played at Rustenburg Golf Club and the final two rounds will be contested over the Lost City layout at Sun City.
The other two inside the top 100 are the two leaders in the Chase to the Investec Cup: Jaco van Zyl is on top of those rankings with 1,139.5 points and with an Official World Golf Ranking of 84, while second-placed Darren Fichardt, who has 1,124.45 points, is 80th.
And while the 30 men in the Investec Cup tournament are playing for R1-million, their eyes will be firmly fixed on the R5-million Bonus Pool which will be divided up once they have completed the tournament according to their final positions in the Chase to the Investec Cup.
The Investec Bonus Pool will see R2-million going to the winner, while 30th place will pick up R40,000. The Chase to the Investec Cup started with last October’s BMG Classic and ended with the Telkom PGA Championship when the top 30 available players on the Investec Bonus Pool ranking qualified for the season-ending Investec Cup.
Emphasising the strength of the Sunshine Tour, Fichardt (4) and Sterne (6) have 10 European Tour titles between them, and Hennie Otto, James Kingston and Garth Mulroy a further five with two each for Otto and Kingston.
There are only five players in the field – Dean Burmester, Colin Nel, Matthew Carvell, PH McIntyre and Danie van Tonder – who have yet to win on the Sunshine Tour, while the remaining 25 players account for a staggering 132 Sunshine Tour titles between them. Leading that list are Fichardt, Desvonde Botes and Jean Hugo with 13 Sunshine Tour victories each.
The number of victories will increase to 133 this week, but will it be a rookie or a veteran who claims the Investec Cup title?