Louis Oosthuizen was the second South African player ahead of this week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge to recall how tough the set-up of Gary Player Country Club was for a tournament both he and Lee Westwood have won on the famous course.
“I don’t remember what the score was, but I won it by one shot with a birdie at the last,” said Oosthuizen. “That tournament was set up much tougher and the rough was always very thick.”
Gary Todd, the Sunshine Tour tournament director to do the set up for the Dimension Data Pro-Am when it was last played at Sun City in 2009 recalls why that was the case: “The Sun City people wanted to get the curse back to resort-style golf as quickly as possible after the Nedbank Golf Challenge, so they’d cut the rough right back.
“But that meant that a ball in the rough would sit right down and it was very difficult to get a club on it. So the rough for the Dimension Data was always brutal,” said Todd.
That didn’t stop Oosthuizen from carding a six-under-par 66 in his opening round back then on the Gary Player Country Club layout – with three bogeys!
But Oosthuizen will still exercise caution as he tees off on Thursday in search of victory in the Nedbank Golf Challenge. “You need to hit fairways and you learn to play the course differently and not just take driver and bomb it,” he said. “There are a lot of holes out there where I’ll be hitting five-woods, three-woods and three-irons just to get myself in play.
“If you’re driving it well and you take it on this week then it will be a lot shorter than how I play it. But then you have to drive it very well. It’s not a course where you can just hit it in the rough and take a penalty, this is a course where you’ll lose balls.”
And after a year during which he was plagued by a back injury – “I’m pain-free, and there are still a few things we’re working on, but I’m not on painkillers” – he is cautiously confident ahead of a tournament he loves.
“I want to take it slow. I’ve won a tournament here before and it’s the type of place where a bad hole is around the corner,” he said. “There are tough tee shots and spots that you need to stay away from. I’ll be cautious out there and take it slow and give myself a lot of birdie chances. The game is there to do it, so it’s a matter of thinking right and mentally staying in the moment.”