There are seven previous champions in the field in this week’s Dimension Data Pro-Am. The Pro-Am tees off on Thursday over all three of the courses at Fancourt Hotel and Golf Estate.
Defending champion George Coetzee is the most recent of those, and he has some recent form to point to, despite missing the cut in last week’s Maybank Championship in Malaysia. Just two weeks back, he finished in a share of seventh at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
But he is certain to find himself with a battle on his hands from Lee Westwood, who, at 45 on the Official World Golf Ranking, is the highest-ranked player in the field. And, like Coetzee, he has recent form behind him with his share of eighth in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, where he finished under 70 in all four rounds.
Westwood won the Dimension Data Pro-Am back in 2000 when it was still played at Sun City, romping to a five-stroke victory over American Tom Gillis. He returns 17 years later with his son playing the tournament, and having ascended to world number one since then, when he held that spot for 22 weeks from October 2010.
The other former champions in the field are Jaco van Zyl, who won in 2013, Darren Fichardt (2004 and 2010), Oliver Bekker (2012), Hennie Otto (2011) and James Kamte (2008).
They, together with the rest of the field, will be paired with amateurs for the tournament, and play the first three rounds on each of the Fancourt courses – The Links, Outeniqua and Montagu. After the third round, the cut will be made to the top 60 professionals and ties and the final round will be played on Montagu.
The amateur and professional teams will play in a 72-hole betterball medal competition. On conclusion of the third round there will be a cut to the leading 25 team scores. All teams making the 54-hole cut will contest the final round.
Westwood will find the tournament a different proposition from the one he won in 2000. For starters, the three courses are nothing like the Lost City and Gary Player Country Club courses on which he triumphed, and the cut was made after 36 holes back then.
And, although he was up against an international field back then – as he is this week – there is a generation of young South African golfers on the rise. And they will be keen to show off their paces in much the same way as he did to some big names back then.