Henrik Stenson goes in the Nedbank Golf Challenge ranked first in the Race to Dubai, and his rivals will struggle to catch the Swede at a tournament he’s won before.
‘Winning here in 2008 stands out. I shot a very good opening round and managed to leave the field behind. That was my win, but I had a couple seconds and some fourths, so it’s been a good hunting ground so far. Hopefully it can prove to be the same again,’ he said.
The reining Open Champion has enjoyed a stellar year that includes a tied-second result at the WGC-HSBC Champions a fortnight ago.
He’s endured knee surgery, but that has done little to prevent the 40-year-old from dominating on the European Tour this season, where he’s got two wins and five more top 10s.
‘I have a really good year behind me and it would be nice to finish it off with being Europe’s number one. I’m sure Danny will try to find some game here and push me to the limit,’ he said.
Stenson has a famous three-wood that carved up Gary Player Country Club in years gone by. In 2015 he fell ill during the week and was unable to bring down leader Marc Leishman, who won for the first time.
‘The Nedbank Golf Challenge is in a different place on the schedule, the second-last event in the Race to Dubai,’ explained Stenson. ‘I’m in a good position and there are a few guys behind who want to play some good golf as well, so I better keep my head up and my foot down. I need a good week here and a strong finish in Dubai if I want to stay top.’
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Course knowledge and impeccable ball striking make him a sure favourite to win at Sun City this week. He knows the fans and the layout, and has won in the Pilanesberg heat before.
‘It’s a course that rewards hitting fairways,’ he said. ‘If you miss it then there is bush and maybe a new ball, so you better be on with your long game. The rough is pretty thick and you have to be precise with your irons. The greens are a little bit like a mickey mouse shape, and they can stick the pins in a corner. So you’ve got to be accurate.
‘There’s always a lot of crowds coming out. It’s a great atmosphere, and the ones who make the journey up here really enjoy their golf. I’m looking forward to another good week. It’s earlier on the calendar and I’m not sure how many juniors will be here because of exams, but I’m sure a few will sneak away,’ he added.