Gary Player has selected five of his greatest moments in the history of the Nedbank Golf Challenge, and which were made by the shots that he believes best define the “Stroke of Genius” campaign behind this year’s tournament.
The Black Knight and official host of the Nedbank Golf Challenge starts his top five with Fabrizio Zanotti’s hole-in-one on the par-three fourth hole in last year’s tournament. The Paraguayan golfer hit a perfect seven iron to make the first hole-in-one in Nedbank Golf Challenge history.
“The layout of the fourth hole is water in front of the green. If you miss the green right you’re really in great difficulty. The wind comes through that little valley there which always makes it more difficult. It’s hard to read the wind. It has a great effect on the shot. But from a high, elevated tee, the shot goes higher, so it stops quicker. So one is inclined to attack that pin,” explains Player.
The Grand Slam champion’s next choice is Tiger Woods’s chip in on the 18th green in 1998 to force a playoff with Nick Price.
“First of all, you can imagine the pressure for Tiger to chip in on the 18th hole, to win a million dollars. What a dynamic golfer. He’s so focused and confident over that chip. Think about Nick Price standing there and watching this. He’s thinking, ‘This man’s going to chip in the hole’. I’m telling you. You could hear that roar. It made for a phenomenal tournament. That was really a stroke of genius, at the right time.”
Player’s next stroke of genius was Thomas Bjørn’s final-round eagle on the par-five 14th on his way to victory in 2013.
“The risk when you stand at number 14 – it’s do or die. The way the stage was set, he’s only going to win by one shot. In other words, he’s not going to win unless he does it. So you can’t play safe at that stage. If you look at where the pin was – it’s a tiny little green. And he’s probably roughly 260 yards from the flag. Now that ball could very well have stuck in the love grass. But he hits it in the right spot and it goes through the kikuyu fringe, onto the green about 10 or 12 feet from the hole and he holes the putt. He goes on to win by two shots.”
Jim Furyk’s first Nedbank Golf Challenge victory in 2005 is also on Player’s list. The American was involved in a four-man playoff with Darren Clarke, Adam Scott and Retief Goosen, and then chipped in on the second playoff hole – the par-four 18th – to win.
“You’ve got a four-man playoff on one hole to decide the event. There’s only one thought – you have to birdie the hole. You’ve only got one chance. Isn’t it amazing that the man who doesn’t hit the green and is worse off, going straight downhill, chips it in the hole. There is the stroke of genius.”
And finally, Player lists Henrik Stenson’s 2008 victory by nine strokes as his final greatest performance. That week, Stenson never used his drive once and relied heavily on his three wood in one of the most strategic victories ever witnessed in the tournament.
“One thing about the Gary Player Country Club, the rough is very penal. Patricularly the trees. It’s essential to have a plan because your plan gives you confidence. Stenson realised that you keep the ball in play. He hits the ball very high, particulary with his three wood which he also hits as far as most people do their driver. He always used that club because that was his confident club,” said Player.