Tommy Fleetwood is relishing the “pretty surreal” chance to write his name into the history books with a third straight victory in the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
Fleetwood defeated Sweden’s Marcus Kinhult on the first play-off hole at the Gary Player Country Club in November 2019, but the Covid-19 pandemic meant he had to wait until 2022 to defend the title.
A closing 67 on a weather-affected final day gave the Ryder Cup star a one-shot win over New Zealand’s Ryan Fox and both men are back in Sun City 12 months on to seek victory in the 66-man field.
Fleetwood, who can join an elite group which includes the likes of Tiger Woods and Sir Nick Faldo in winning the same DP World Tour event three times in succession, said: “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 an historic event for a lot of us.
“For my generation I guess, and for people older and younger too, but 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.”
Victory last year ended a three-year winless run for Fleetwood and the world number 15 again arrived in South Africa seeking a first win of the season.
“I’ve played really well,” said Fleetwood, who lost in a play-off in June’s RBC Canadian Open and posted eight other top-10s in 2023.
“You should always look at the positives and I think this year has been arguably my most consistent year.
“I am very happy with how I’ve been playing. Yes, there’s not been a win, but I’ve been very, very close. Things could have gone either way in certain events. [I’ve] not won yet, but there’s still a couple of events to go for the rest of the year.”
World number eight Max Homa is the top ranked player in the field and has been making the most of the chance to see the local wildlife, along with Ryder Cup team-mate Justin Thomas.
“The safari is life changing,” Homa said. “I don’t know how I’m supposed to explain this to my friends and family. I would never do it justice.
“A running joke between Justin and I is that if I was a guide it would be all made up and just tremendously terrible. But it’s just so cool to spend some time away from the golf course and experience kind of what the world has to offer.
“When I was growing up I watched this tournament and tons of DP World Tour events that I always wanted to play in. With the previous PGA Tour schedule it would be wild to try and do this. You would have to battle jet lag from tournament to tournament.
“But now, with a real off-season for us, I made it a point to play at least one over here. To be able to get a spot here and play has been a dream.”