The Nedbank Golf Challenge kicks off this week over in South Africa at Sun City, What are you expecting from the course and the tournament as a whole?
One of the key features of this course is that it’s really difficult for driving. You're either perfect and on the fairway or you are in the bush where you’ll probably lose your ball...there’s not much in between. The way I drive it these days, that's my worst nightmare!
The Gary Player Country Club course is just a really great layout. It’s long so you get to hit your driver as much as you want to and so because of that, it's a great tacticians golf course. If you do choose to play aggressively, you better play straight because the margin for error is so small. You can see why some players like Westwood would have won here because he's arguably one of the best drivers of a golf ball who's ever played the game.
The prize money is going up over the next 3 weeks with record breaking money on offer on the European Tour, each week the pot getting a little bit bigger until you get to that last event at DP World Tour which is a 3 million dollar prize. I think that's going to help bring in a really strong field, there's going to be a lot of top players and Westwood is obviously defending his title. It’s going to be a great week of golf.
Have you played the course in the past?
I haven't, but I've obviously been there before with Sky, so I’ve walked the golf course a few times. The course is quite old fashioned in its style but the emphasis on accuracy is definite. If you find a fairway, you beat the golf course. Put yourself in good positions off the tee and you're going to be tough to beat...it’s usually the top players that do well here. That's a testament to a good golf course when the best players rise to the top.
Have you played golf in South Africa anywhere else?
Yes, I played quite a bit down there actually. My favourite course is the one I had a nightmare on ironically, The Links at Fancourt. I ran out of balls and so for me to say it’s still my favourite even when I ran out of balls, is surely saying something. It was just stunning and again it’s a driver's golf course.
Johannesburg has some really old fashioned courses which are quite cool, a bit of a throwback… Short and dinky, nice country clubs, like Houghton Golf Club, which is the first (I think) I played down there. Other great courses like Durban Country Club are a must for anyone visiting that region and then down near Capetown you’ve got Fancourt which I’ve mentioned as well as lots of other world class golf courses. I’ve never played Leopard Creek, and that’s the one that everyone keeps telling me about. I’ve heard the facilities, as well as the golf, are out of this world. And then you’re only a 5 minute drive from the door to Kruger National Park so you can play golf and then go for a few days adventure - it’s a dream holiday destination for sure.
What else do you enjoy about South Africa?
Food! I mean I’m a massive steak man; Australia, South Africa, Argentina are all known for the quality of their beef but South Africa is definitely the best place that I ever been for steak. It's so good! It’s actually kind of ruined it for me at home really...I can’t bring myself to order a steak at home or in London now, because it just wouldn’t be the same.
Back to the event itself rather than the destination. Any predictions on a winner?
Yes okay, so the guy I’m going to go for, he hasn't won this year. But he is an awesome player. He’s come 2nd 4 times in Europe and on 1 occasion on the PGA Tour this year and he's been really close to winning in recent weeks. It’s Matt Fitzpatrick - he's playing so well and he knows he's good so his confidence is high...I think he might pull out a big performance. He's played well here before as well and the fact that he's a great driver of the ball...I mean he is driving it really well right now and his distance control is great so this sort of course will definitely suit him.
And obviously, Lee Westwood is defending. I said it earlier, this golf course is made for him with the way he plays. It's probably because it really plays into his driving. The fact that he is such a great driver of the ball shows why he’s done well here in the past and I could totally see it happen for him again this year. He played well last week in Turkey too so he’s obviously in good form.