Some of the most popular PGA Tour players are in South Africa this week for the DP World Tour’s Nedbank Golf Challenge.
Back-to-back defending champion Tommy Fleetwood is eying three straight at the Gary Player Country Club. Meanwhile, Justin Thomas and Max Homa make their South African debut.
Fleetwood would become the first player to win three straight in the event’s history, and only the fifth to win it three times at any point.
“Ever since the first time I came, it’s got a very special feeling to it driving into the gates of Sun City, and it’s such a historic event for a lot of us,” Fleetwood said. “I remember it as the Million Dollar Challenge, so it’s always had such a high value. And yet to be going for a third win seems pretty surreal, but we’ll see what we can do.”
The 66-man field is stout as there are major champions, Rolex Series winners, previous FedEx Cup champions and Ryder Cup stars in it.
Homa is the highest-ranked OWGR player in the field at No. 8. This event marks his first solely sanctioned DP World Tour tournament. However, he has played in a PGA Tour co-sanctioned event at the Genesis Scottish Open.
While it’s his first time in Sun City, he knows how significant this event is. He watched this tournament growing up, so to get an invite into the field was a dream come true.
“When I saw that there was a real off-season for us, I made it a point to play at least one over here,” Homa said. “Going forward, being able to do more of this would be a priority because we want to experience what golf at large has to offer. This has been a pretty special week so far.”
Meanwhile, Thomas is coming off a disappointing season, finishing 71st in FedEx Cup points and missing the playoffs. He has also slipped to No. 28 in the world. However, the former Crimson Tide golfer loves to travel and play golf around the world. Like Homa, he made it a point to be at this event.
Homa and Thomas, fellow Team USA Ryder Cup teammates, went on a safari that produced a hilarious video. The two played tour guides for each other while seeing wild African animals. They gave their best Steve Irwin impressions as they took in that once-of-a-lifetime opportunity.
Justin Rose, Robert MacIntyre and Nicolai Højgaard, three of Fleetwood’s Ryder Cup teammates, are also in the field this week.
The event is seven hours ahead of the Eastern time zone. Fans can tune into NBC’s Golf Channel, which will play the event at 4 a.m. ET each of the four days.
Nedbank Golf Challenge’s History
This event has a vast record of big names coming down and leaving victorious.
Nick Faldo, Tiger Woods, Bernhard Langer, Seve Ballesteros and Nick Price are just a few to have won in Sun City.
Beginning in 1981, this event was the first to have a million-dollar purse. Hence why it was dubbed the ‘Million-Dollar Challenge’ before it became ‘Africa’s Major.’
That year featured just five players when Johnny Miller overcame Seve Ballesteros in nine playoff holes to win.
Gary Player was also one of the five in that field. The South African legend has remained a chief feature in this tournament.
He helped launch ‘Africa’s Major’ over 40 years ago as the golf legend brought together some of the game’s greatest players. His course opened in 1979 and has been the home of this tournament since the beginning.
“The legacy of a tournament such as this reflects the legacy of the many great people involved who, through their passion for this event, have seen it thrive,” Player said.
“Africa’s Major is all about the spirit of South Africa to overcome and inspire. I am truly humbled to be a part of something that, for one week every year at Sun City, brings us all together in celebration of this spirit.”
Beginning in 2024, the event will honor the nine-time major winner for his long-time contribution to international golf.
While this event has been around for 42 years, it wasn’t until 2013 that it officially became part of the DP World Tour’s schedule. The Tour and Nedbank Golf Challenge recently signed a new three-year agreement for the event to remain on the schedule until 2026.
Savannah Leigh Richardson is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. You can follow her on Twitter @SportsGirlSL and Instagram @savannah_leigh_sports for more golf coverage. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough too.