Rory McIlroy keeps South African Open promise

<div class="news_article"><p>Rory McIlroy will be keeping a promise to fellow major champion Ernie Els when he lines up in the South African Open this week as the European Tour begins a new calendar year.</p><p>Els is player-host of the second oldest national Open championship in world golf and extracted the commitment when he played in the 2014 Irish Open, which is hosted by McIlroy&rsquo;s Foundation.</p><p><div class="getty embed image" style="background-color:#fff;display:inline-block;font-family:'Helvetica Neue',Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif;color:#a7a7a7;font-size:11px;width:100%;max-width:594px;"><div style="padding:0;margin:0;text-align:left;"><a href="" target="_blank" style="color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration:none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;display:inline-block;">Embed from Getty Images</a></div><div style="overflow:hidden;position:relative;height:0;padding:64.309764% 0 0 0;width:100%;"><iframe src="//" width="594" height="382" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="display:inline-block;position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;margin:0;"></iframe></div><p style="margin:0;"></p></div></p><p></p><p>&ldquo;Rory was very serious about coming to South Africa when I told him he &lsquo;owed me one&rsquo; at the Irish Open,&rdquo; said Els.</p><p>&ldquo;He&rsquo;ll be the man to beat. Rory is by far the class player in the field when you look at the world rankings,&rsquo; he told reporters as golfers tested out the course at Glendower Country Club before Thursday&rsquo;s start.</p><p>&ldquo;He&rsquo;s the guy everyone will be looking up at to beat. There&rsquo;s so much excitement among everyone that he&rsquo;s here.&rdquo;</p><p>The 27-year-old McIlroy, ranked second in the world, played the tournament once before in 2008, not long after turning professional, and shared third spot with Els.</p><p>Nick Faldo, now 59, makes a return to the Tour after a lay-off of more than two years.</p><p>But South Africa&rsquo;s three top ranked golfers -- Branden Grace, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen -- have all elected to skip the event.</p><p>&ldquo;Naturally I&rsquo;m disappointed they are not here, I think we all are. I think they still want to spend more time with their families and I understand that,&quot; Els added.</p><p>&quot;But I hope we can persuade them to play next year because the spectators are crazy about them and want to see them play.&quot;</p></div>