By Michael Vlismas
Half of the victorious European Ryder Cup team as well as two Major winners and three former world number ones are amongst the first group of players to confirm their place in this December’s Nedbank Golf Challenge.
Tournament Director Alastair Roper, in announcing the first 12 players that will tee it up in the 4-7 December tournament co-sanctioned by the European Tour and Sunshine Tour and played at one of Sun International’s flagship golf courses in the Gary Player Country Club, said he was delighted with the response of Europe’s Ryder Cup stars.
“To secure half of the European Ryder Cup team, which is by far the biggest representation of that team to be playing in a single tournament anywhere in the world at this same time, is a major coup for us in a year when European golfers are in such demand following their Ryder Cup victory,” Roper said.
The European Ryder Cup stars in the Nedbank Golf Challenge field include Thomas Bjørn, Martin Kaymer, Victor Dubuisson, Jamie Donaldson, Stephen Gallacher and Lee Westwood. Spain’s Miguel Angel Jiminez, who was a vice-captain on the team, is also in the field.
Bjørn is back to defend the title he won in spectacular fashion last year, claiming a two-stroke victory at the age of 42.
Westwood is making his 10th appearance in the Nedbank Golf Challenge and returns as a back-to-back winner of “Africa’s Major” in 2010 and 2011.
Kaymer is back hoping to add to his 2012 triumph in the Nedbank Golf Challenge, and the 2014 US Open champion and former world number one is joined by other former world number ones in Westwood and Luke Donald.
Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champion, leads the South Africans in the group, which includes 2013 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit winner Dawie van der Walt.
Thai golf legend Thongchai Jaidee will be joined in the field by his younger counterpart Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who qualified by virtue of his first-place finish on the 2013 Asian Tour Order of Merit.
NEDBANK GOLF CHALLENGE CONFIRMED PLAYERS:
Thomas Bjørn (Denmark)
Martin Kaymer (Germany)
Lee Westwood (England)
Charl Schwartzel (South Africa)
Victor Dubuisson (France)
Jamie Donaldson (Wales)
Stephen Gallacher (Scotland)
Dawie van der Walt (South Africa)
Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Thailand)
Luke Donald (England)
Miguel Angel Jiminez (Spain)
Thongchai Jaidee (Thailand)
BY THE NUMBERS:
Past Champions (3):
Thomas Bjørn – 2013
Martin Kaymer – 2012
Lee Westwood – 2010, 2011
Major Champions (2):
Martin Kaymer – 2010 PGA Championship, 2014 US Open
Charl Schwartzel – 2011 Masters
2014 European Ryder Cup players (6):
Former World Number Ones (3):
Countries Represented (9):
Denmark, Germany, England, South Africa, France, Wales, Scotland, Thailand, Spain