While the tournament is now part of the European Tour’s Final Series and the penultimate tournament on the Race to Dubai, players hailed the Nedbank Golf Challenge as ‘Africa’s Major’ on the eve of Thursday’s first round.
Former winner Retief Goosen said although the tournament has been grown “to a different level” it has always been one of the best events in the world.
“The golf course is great, it's set up very well this year and it feels a bit like a major,” said the double Major champion.
“Walking around, playing today, seeing what effort goes into this event, around 18, it feels like you're playing a major championship; there's stands everywhere.
“It's amazing what they have done with this event, and glad that it's part of such a big Race to Dubai Final Series now.”
The field has been increased from 30 players last year to 72 which includes 64 players from the Race to Dubai.
South Africa’s highest ranked player Branden Grace, who occupies 10th place on the Race to Dubai rankings will have an added incentive to play for other than restoring home pride.
The iconic tournament has not produced a local winner since Trevor Immelman nine years ago in 2007.
Grace, who is among nine South African in the 72-man field, shared Retief’s sentiments and affection for the tournament at the Gary Player Country Club.
“There's nothing like it honestly, it's a great week and for me growing up as a South African, this is our African major,” Grace said.
“This is what we dream of, this is the tournament we want to play in. I was a little bit scared coming in this week, knowing that it's 64 guys. We didn't know what to expect. The guys have put on a great show so far.”
All eyes will be on Open champion Henrik Stenson of Sweden, who enjoys a healthy lead at the top of the Race to Dubai rankings.
Stenson could seal his second Race to Dubai title with a victory in Sun City with Masters champion Danny Willett of England looking to regain form and sneak one past the Swede.
Willett, the 2014 Nedbank Golf Challenge winner said he hoped he could tap into his past successes on the course to give him a timely boost.
“For this one to fall where it has in The Final Series, I think could be a nice little boost for me,” Willett said.
“I've been struggling of recent, just trying to get things going, and yeah, it's going to be nice to come back and play this event on a golf course we know really well and that we've played really well around.”
Stenson has equally fond memories playing in Sun City having won the tournament in 2008 and finishing last year’s tournament as runner-up.
“Of course, winning in 2008, I shot a very good opening round and managed to leave the field behind, really,” Stenson said.
“That's my win here. I've got a couple of seconds and a couple of fourths, as well, so it's been a good hunting ground so far. Hopefully it can prove to be that once again.”
Original source: Nedbank Challenge has a ‘Major’ feel to it