Westwood excited by return to happy hunting ground

The Englishman is primed for his first European Tour title defence in five years

Lee Westwood is primed for his first European Tour title defence in five years when he tees it up in the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player – the penultimate Rolex Series event on the 2019 Race to Dubai.

Nedbank Golf Challenge - Westwood primed for title defence
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“I always look forward to coming back to Sun City. It’s a brilliant resort and great golf course. Always done well around here and it brings back good feelings.

“It’s nice to be back defending a tournament. Tough to win these Rolex Series events and managed to win this one last year. I’m excited about playing well again. I played well in Turkey last week, and excited to get back on the golf course this week.”

The former World Number One fired a stunning final round of 64 at Gary Player Country Club last year to finish three strokes ahead of Ryder Cup teammate Sergio Garcia, returning to the winner’s circle for the first time since the 2014 Maybank Championship.

The Englishman became the first European to win the title three times following his victories in 2010 and 2011, to join South African legend Ernie Els and Zimbabwean Major winner Nick Price

“I’ve won four times around here: three Nedbanks and a Dimension Data. I know the course well. I know where they put the flags. I read these greens pretty well, as well. Distance control with the elevation changes and the extremes in temperature all come into that. I have a pretty good game plan for the course and I know how to handle the variations in conditions.”

Westwood will start the week in Sun City in the company of Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex leader Bernd Wiesberger of Austria and fellow Englishman Matt Fitzpatrick, who currently occupies fourth place on the season-long standings.

Wiesberger has a lead of 387 points over Jon Rahm with just two events left to play. The winner of the Nedbank Golf Challenge will receive 1,665 points and a cheque for US$2.5million – before players battle for the largest first prize in tournament golf – US$3million – at the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai next week.

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“There are so many points to be had over the last events again, and a lot of things can happen,” said Wiesberger. “I’m just looking to be prepared as good as I can. It’s getting a little bit tighter with some of my game that hasn’t been there the last two weeks. Just look at the course and looking really forward to this week again. I’m not looking too much into the ranking and just controlling what I can control.”

Also teeing it up at the Nedbank Golf Challenge this week are 2017 Race to Dubai winner Tommy Fleetwood, who made his last appearance at this event that same year, and South African legend Els, who won the Nedbank Golf Challenge in 1999, 2000 and 2002, before the event joined the European Tour’s International Schedule in 2013.

“It’s really nice to be back,” said Fleetwood. “I missed last year, the way scheduling worked out. Coming back, played it a few years now, and got such a great atmosphere, such a big event, it always has been. It continues to get bigger, really, and in terms of how important it is to the season everything and, coming down to the final couple of events, it’s special.

“The game wasn’t there in China, so we had to work on it. But I’ve done some good work last week. I feel a lot better. I feel a lot happier with where my swing is and where my head is. You know, always when you’re pushing for result, you feel like you should be doing better and you can be doing better. It’s difficult when you can’t quite get out of it what you want.”

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