Justin Rose won his first professional tournament in South Africa when he won the Nashua Masters in 2002, and after his US Open Championship victory in June this year, he is happy to be back on South African soil.
The world number five is at the Gary Player Country Club for the revamped 30-man field of 2013 Nedbank Golf Challenge, and he will find a lot of local support for him out on the fairways when the tournament gets underway on Thursday.
“South Africa’s very close to my heart, not only because I was born here, but also because I have a lot of family here,” said Rose who was born in Johannesburg. “My brother lives in Jo’burg and my mom lives down in George.”
And while he may have the crowd-pulling power of the likes of Ernie Els to deal with, as well as the presence of the likes of fellow major champions Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, he is relishing the chance to tee it up for the local fans. “To play in front of South African crowd who love their sport is always good fun,” he said.
Rose, who is making his fifth appearance of the Nedbank Golf Challenge – his best result came in 2007 when he finished second behind Trevor Immelman – has been off for a couple of weeks, and not entirely sure how it will all come together at Sun City.
“I’ve had two weeks off back home and haven’t been able to practice, so I’m knocking off a bit of rust,” he said. “We’ll see how this week goes and I’m just going to take it slow and steady, trying to play my way into a bit of form this week. But my game is never far away and I’ve been playing consistently for the whole year. I expect to put myself in the mix to some degree.”