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Race to Dubai at stake at Nedbank Challenge

Can Stenson cap off a great year? (Photo: Getty Images)
Henrik Stenson could wrap up the Race to Dubai this week with a victory at the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player, and the Swede is in confident mood as he targets the perfect conclusion to a season in which he claimed his maiden Major title at The Open Championship.

The 11-time European Tour winner has enjoyed another remarkably consistent campaign and his recent form suggests another strong performance at Sun City this week is by no means unlikely – his Open win in July was followed by a top ten at the USPGA Championship, a silver medal at the Olympics and a share of second place at the WGC-HSBC Champions two weeks ago.

Danny Willett, however, is aiming for redemption after narrowly missing out on the European Tour Number One crown last year, Rory McIlroy winning the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, to clinch it ahead of him.

Both Stenson and Willett have enjoyed success at the prestigious Nedbank Golf Challenge in the past, in 2008 and 2015 respectively, so it is sure to be an intriguing battle as they tussle for prominence in the Race to Dubai heading into next week’s Dubai’s finale.

A victory this week for Stenson would seal the deal, but only if Willett failed to finish in second position on his own, so the 40 year old Ryder Cup player cuts a determined figure in South Africa.

“I've had a really good year behind me and it would be nice to finish it off with being Europe's Number One,” said Stenson. “I'm sure Danny's going to try and find some game here for the last couple of weeks and push me to the limit.

“It's a great chance for me to stay in that Number One spot, if I play some solid golf these last two tournaments.

“If I were to get anywhere near a win, or win one of them, then I would imagine it would be a done deal. I've just got to go out there and try and play solid for four rounds here, and for four rounds in Dubai, and hopefully that will be good enough to stay Number One.

“This is a course where I've played some good golf in the past and been successful over the five or six times that I've been, so I'm looking forward to the week.”

Willett is also a man who knows his way around the Gary Player Country Club which has hosted this event since its first staging in 1981, having triumphed here two years ago and finished tied fourth earlier this season.

While the Masters Champion’s recent form has not been to the high standards he has set himself in the last two years, it is less than two months since the 29 year old narrowly missed out on a sixth European Tour title, finishing runner-up at the Italian Open and he is a previous winner of the event in addition to his 4th place last year

“Me and Henrik have both had fantastic years, both picking up our first Major and both had good showings elsewhere around the world, and now boils down to two events where I am back to chasing,” he said.

“I’m a little bit behind him so I’m going to try to make up some ground this week and hopefully try to make up ground next week or fend him off and see how everything goes. We've both got pretty good track records around this golf course, as well, so it could be interesting.”

Scott Hend is the leading Australian in the field after defending champion Marc Leishman decided to change his schedule after his inclusion in the World Cup of Golf field. Hend will be joined by Marcus Fraser and Nathan Holman in the lucrative (US$7 million) event, all three playing the event for the first occasion.

 

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