McIlroy back for another crack
● Rory McIlroy has conquered the world’s best on every major tour on every continent he’s played on, except one — Africa.
The world No 7, who gave the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil a miss, is coming back for another crack at the Nedbank Golf Challenge after a nine-year hiatus.
The last time McIlroy participated at Sun City, in 2009, he was a promising 20-yearold in an elite field of just 12 players.
Now the tournament is the European Tour’s penultimate event in its two bonus attractions, the Race to Dubai and the Rolex Series.
A good performance from November 8-11 could be critical to McIlroy’s plan of winning the Race, which carries a $1.25-million reward for first place. It would be his fourth time, after victories in 2012, 2014 and 2015.
“I have been fortunate to win the Race to Dubai on three occasions and this year I want to give myself every chance of winning it for the fourth time,” said McIlroy, who is lying fourth in the 2018 Race rankings.
Sunshine Tour executive director Selwyn Nathan said the event organisers were paying no appearance fee for the former world No 1 to play in the $7.5-million tournament.
“He doesn’t cost us anything. he’s part of the European Tour’s plan to add value to the Rolex Series,” said Nathan, describing the golfer from Northern Ireland as one of the sport’s biggest drawcards for the youth.
“He’s the kids’ choice. You saw what happened at the BMW South African Open a few years ago, how the kids just came out.
“They want to see this guy because they can relate to him. He’s not this big giant of a man, he’s someone they can relate to. He’s got a great golf swing, he’s friendly to the people, he takes an interest in the kids, he’s a real superstar in respect of the kids and that’s where the future of our kids is.”
McIlroy was part of a nail-biting finish at the 2017 SA Open as he duelled Englishman Graeme Storm in a playoff, losing on the third extra hole.
Already confirmed for the NGC are Spaniard Sergio Garcia, the victor in 2001 and 2003, defending champion Branden Grace, South Africa’s first winner of this tournament in a decade, and George Coetzee, another popular local hero.
In 2009 McIlroy pulled out after two rounds because of a virus he had contracted in China not long before. He had failed to break par on the Gary Player Country Club layout, carding 73 and 76.
Since then he has won four major tournaments, including two in 2014, the British Open and the PGA Championship. His first was the US Open in 2011 and the second the PGA Championship in 2012.
McIlroy needs to win the Masters to become only the seventh man to complete a career grand slam, and just the second nonAmerican after Player, the host of NGC 2018.
If McIlroy can draw inspiration from the golfing legend it won’t be the first time he’s received help from South Africa.
He was given an invitation by businessman Johann Rupert into the 2007 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, his second professional event, where he did enough to secure his European Tour card.
And finishing third at the SA Open in 2008 earned him an invitation to the 2009 Masters.
He’s not this giant, he’s someone kids relate to Selwyn Nathan
Sunshine Tour executive director
Rory McIlroy will play Nedbank Challenge.