From The European Tour
Andy Sullivan will hope to pick up where he left off when he begins his 2016 season at this week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa, the country where he claimed his first two European Tour wins last year.
The Englishman enjoyed a brilliant breakthrough season in 2015, also capturing the Portugal Masters after wins in the South African Open Championship and Joburg Open earlier in the year.
He then finished the campaign on a high, taking second place in the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai after a thrilling duel with Rory McIlroy on the final day, producing a putting masterclass before ultimately losing out by a single stroke to the World Number Three.
After a short break, the 29-year-old is back in action to make his Nedbank Golf Challenge debut at the Gary Player Country Club in Sun City, where a world-class 30-man field will contest the US$6.5million prize fund.
“It was nice to go home and have a week off and reflect on everything,” said Sullivan. “On the Sunday I came away feeling really disappointed, but once I was back home on the Monday and Tuesday it started to sink in what I’d done and what I achieved, and I realised I could come away with my head held high.
“I’m really excited to be back in South Africa after doing so well here earlier in the year. It’s nice to be back on the kikuyu grass and just feeding off the great vibes I’ve got from the memories of this country.
“It’s awesome – the course is fantastic and the scenery is unbelievable. We didn’t see any animals today but maybe it’s too hot. It’s scorching out there. It’s much better than being at home in minus degrees though, that’s for sure.”
Sullivan showed he could compete with the world’s best in Dubai, and he has another chance to do so among the star-studded field, which includes world number seven Henrik Stenson, two-time major champion Martin Kaymer, 23-time European Tour winner Lee Westwood, another Ryder Cup star in the form of Victor Dubuisson and defending champion Danny Willett.
He added: “I used to watch this on TV when it was the 12-man Million Dollar Challenge. I remember Henrik (Stenson) demolishing the field one year and winning by quite a few. You get a feel for some of the holes from what you’ve seen on TV but once you’re here it looks a bit different in real life. It’s spectacular.
“It’s strange because it feels like the end of the year, yet it’s the start of the new season. It’s not hard to get up for an event like this though. Hopefully I can put in one more good week and get quite a few points on the board heading into the new year.”
Willett’s success 12 months ago, when he held off Luke Donald and Ross Fisher with two brilliant weekend rounds of 65-66 for an 18 under par total, proved the foundation for a wonderful season, which culminated in his finishing second in the Race to Dubai after pushing McIlroy all the way.
The 28 year old was never outside the top two in the Race from the first week to the last, adding the Omega European Masters to his trophy cabinet in July.
The Nedbank Golf Challenge joined the European Tour International Schedule three years ago, having previously been played as the Million Dollar Challenge since 1981.
The field comprises the defending champion; the top ten PGA Tour FedEx Cup players, the top ten European Tour Race to Dubai players; the Order of Merit winners from the Sunshine Tour, Asian Tour, Japan Golf Tour and PGA Tour of Australasia; the Alfred Dunhill Championship winner and the top five South African players in the Official World Golf Ranking not otherwise exempt.