Sun City – Even though he beat two of South
Africa’s favourite sons for his two Nedbank Golf Challenge titles, Sergio
Garcia knows that he will still be affectionately received when he tees off on
Thursday at Gary Player Country Club.
He defeated Ernie Els in a playoff in 2001 and Retief
Goosen, also in a playoff in 2003. And, after a victory on October 21 in the
Andalucia Valderrama Masters which he hosted in his home country, he’s riding a
wave of confidence into a tournament he loves.
“Sun City has been a good place for me,” he said.
more of that this week. Excited to be back here in South Africa, where I’ve
always had a great following and felt a lot of love. Hopefully I can give them
plenty to cheer for.”
Garcia, the 2017 Masters champion, took the momentum he
gained from being part of the victorious Ryder Cup squad – and becoming the
most successful individual player ever in that team competition – and converted
it to that victory in Spain to cap a year which included four other top-10s,
but also four missed cuts in the majors.
But his experience at Sun City will help him build on the
form he has found.
“There’s no doubt it’s been a good couple of months and we
are hoping to keep going that way. That’s the goal,” he said.
“There’s a lot of
things I need to focus on, but I think this kind of golf course is kind of
testing you in every part of your game. It’s testing you on some tee shots.
Some tee shots are quite narrow and then some others give you a little bit more
room. More than anything, going into the greens and around the greens is where
it’s the most difficult and the trickiest. I think your iron play and your
chipping and putting has to be on form.
“The course has changed a little bit, not a whole lot. You
know what happens here. You know how tricky it can be with how the wind swirls
and everything. You’ve just got to try to be committed to what you do, even
though sometimes you might look a little bit silly, some shots that the wind
might switch or something. Try to be as committed as possible and play the best
While he’s won the tournament twice, he has a number of
other former champions he’ll have to keep an eye on.
Trevor Immelman took the
2007 title, Lee Westwood won twice in 2010 and 2011, Martin Kaymer in 2012.
Thomas Bjorn in 2013, Danny Willett in 2014. And then there is Branden Grace,
the defending champion.
It’s 15 years since he won, but he seems to have found
something of the form which won him his first major championship last year. He
could just become the third player after David Frost, Nick Price and Els to win
the title three times.