Henrik Stenson will return to the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player for the first time in three years when the 2016 Open Champion tees it up in the penultimate Rolex Series event on the 2019 Race to Dubai.
The Swede, who lifted the trophy at Gary Player Country Club in 2008, became the first male Major champion from Scandinavia when he triumphed in the 145th Open Championship at Royal Troon three years ago. He recorded a final-round 63 in a thrilling battle with Phil Mickelson, which drew comparisons with the legendary ‘Duel in the Sun’ between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus in 1977.
Stenson’s last appearance in Sun City came in the same year as that famous win, as he went on to top the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex for the second time, after first ascending to the European No 1 spot in 2013.
As both Sun City and Gary Player Country Club celebrate their 40th anniversary, the 11-time European Tour winner will aim to claim a second Nedbank Golf Challenge title and his first since the event became part of the European Tour’s international schedule in the 2014 season.
The 43-year-old has an impressive record in the event, finishing inside the top 10 in each of his last three appearances, including a runner-up finish behind Australian Marc Leishman in 2015.
Stenson said: ‘I’ve always enjoyed playing in the Nedbank Golf Challenge and I’m glad that I’m able to get back, especially as Sun City celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.
‘The last time I played in 2016 it was part of a pretty memorable year for me, and it would be great to mark my return by getting my hands on the trophy again.’
Gary Player said: ‘Our field for the Nedbank Golf Challenge is becoming one of the strongest in golf, and the addition of Henrik Stenson is exciting for our fans. He’s a Major champion and past winner at Sun City and no doubt seeking a Rolex Series win.
‘Last time Henrik played in this event he brought my old friend, the Claret Jug, to Sun City and we had a nice chat about his victory. I am thrilled he is returning and making our 40th anniversary even more special.”
Mike Brown, chief executive of the Nedbank Group, said: ‘The return of Henrik Stenson to “Africa’s Major” is exciting news for us as a sponsor. For over 39 years, the Nedbank Golf Challenge continues to attract the best talent in the game to Sun City and I have no doubt this year’s event, with $2.5 million at stake for first prize, will attract the top names in European and world golf.’
Anthony Leeming, chief executive of Sun International, said: ‘Henrik’s Nedbank Golf Challenge victory in 2008 is among the most memorable performances in the history of this tournament, and certainly among the finest four rounds of golf ever witnessed at the Gary Player Country Club. His ball-striking was some of the best we’ve ever seen, and it was a lesson in how to play our flagship golf course.
‘We are delighted that our 40th-anniversary celebrations of this iconic golf course will include the presence of a Major-winning golfer who has shown such a unique understanding of the challenge that is the Gary Player Country Club course.’
Stenson joins a field that includes fellow Race to Dubai winner Tommy Fleetwood, defending champion Lee Westwood, and South African Major winner Louis Oosthuizen.
Westwood will be looking to make history as the first golfer to win the Nedbank Golf Challenge four times, while 2010 Open Champion Oosthuizen will be seeking to win the title for the first time after finishing third last year, four shots behind the European Ryder Cup great.
The Nedbank Golf Challenge will enhance its status as one of world golf’s elite tournaments this season with an increase in both the first-place prize money and Race to Dubai points – the winner of the 2019 Nedbank Golf Challenge will take home US$2.5 million, an increase on the US$1.25m won by Westwood last year.
The overall prize fund remains at US$7.5m, with the balance of the 63-player field from second place onwards playing for a US$5m prize fund.
This year’s tournament also offers an increased haul of Race to Dubai points from 7,500 to 10,000, which places it above what the World Golf Championships tournaments offer.
General access tickets and luxury return shuttles for the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player can be purchased here. If you are looking for an experience, Circa has once again put together hospitality packages for the event, which can be purchased here.
Photo: Getty Images