By Michael Vlismas
Ernie Els and Webb Simpson are the first two Major champions to confirm their places in the 2015 Nedbank Golf Challenge to be played at the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City from three to six December.
The winners of five Majors between them join defending champion Danny Willett of England, Sweden’s Henrik Stenson and South Africa’s Thomas Aiken as the first five players confirmed for “Africa’s Major”. Both Els and Simpson qualified for this year’s event through the new eligibility criteria that allows for four tournament invitations.
Els is the most successful golfer in the history of the Nedbank Golf Challenge and will be making a record 19th appearance in the tournament.
Since his debut in the 1992 Nedbank Golf Challenge, when he finished third, Els has become an icon of the Nedbank Golf Challenge with his victories in 1999, 2000 and 2002. He has also earned the most prize money of any golfer in the history of the tournament.
This year Els will be seeking to become the first four-time winner in the history of the Nedbank Golf Challenge. His three victories currently equal those of Nick Price and David Frost.
Simpson will make his debut at Sun City. The winner of the 2012 US Open and a further three PGA Tour titles finished 48th on the final FedEx Cup standings this year, and following a season of six top-10s on the PGA Tour including tied second in the Wells Fargo Championship.
The American had a breakthrough season on the PGA Tour in 2011 when he won twice. He claimed his first Major in the US Open the following year, and his most recent PGA Tour title was a convincing six-stroke victory in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in 2013. He has played on two Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams and will be looking to become the first American winner of the Nedbank Golf Challenge since Jim Furyk won back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006.
“I’m delighted to confirm both Ernie and Webb in our 2015 field. Ernie is one of the greatest ambassadors of the Nedbank Golf Challenge and always a firm favourite with the Sun City fans. His victory in 1999 with a tournament record of 25 under par stands as one of the finest performances we’ve ever seen in this tournament,” said Alastair Roper, Sun International’s Tournament Director for the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
“To have Webb in our field is also a major endorsement of the enduring appeal of the Nedbank Golf Challenge in global golf, and particularly in the United States. Our first two champions were Americans (Johnny Miller and Raymond Floyd) and Webb will continue a proud history of the top American players competing at Sun City.”
The field for the $6.5 million tournament will once again feature 30 of the world’s best players competing for a first prize of $1.25 million, and in a tournament co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and European Tour.
2015 NEDBANK GOLF CHALLENGE CONFIRMED PLAYERS:
Ernie Els (South Africa)
Webb Simpson (United States)
Danny Willett (England)
Henrik Stenson (Sweden)
Thomas Aiken (South Africa)