Sun City fails to attract big names
A crowded schedule and a glut of prize money elsewhere mean South Africa's Sun City Challenge event has attracted only two of the world's top 10 golfers this year, according to organisers.
"There is simply too much golf and too much money out there for the guys to make," tournament director Alastair Roper said after announcing that world number two Lee Westwood and local favourite Ernie Els were the only top-10 players in the December 2-5 event.
"Our aim is to secure the participation of 12 top-ranked players in the world but that is unrealistic," Roper added.
"Tiger Woods hosts the Chevron World Challenge which is scheduled for the same week, and this puts us in a difficult position.
"The lack of top American players in the field is unfortunate. The likes of Jim Furyk will be defending his Chevron title and Phil Mickelson has committed to play in Japan the same week as our tournament."
Roper said possible changes in the calendar next year would help the event, which this year celebrates its 30th anniversary.
"This year, the Race to Dubai ends the week before our tournament, but next year it will probably be the week after. That means a lot of top golfers might decide to fly to Africa early, play at Sun City and then catch the short flight to Dubai," Roper told Reuters.
The event at the Sun City resort was launched in 1981 as the richest tournament in golf. In 1987, when Ian Woosnam claimed a cheque for $1 million his prize money dwarfed the winnings of that year's US PGA Tour leader Greg Norman, who took $653,000.
Briton Westwood, who is expected to end the month on top of the world rankings, was on Europe's victorious Ryder Cup team at the start of the month and will be joined at Sun City by team mates Ross Fisher, Padraig Harrington, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Edoardo Molinari.
World number 10 Els, who won the Grand Slam of Golf on Wednesday, will be returning to the Gary Player Country Club, where he has won three times, for the first time since 2007.
He will be joined by fellow South Africans Louis Oosthuizen, the British Open champion, Retief Goosen and Tim Clark.
Robert Allenby, the first Australian to win the title, will return to defend his crown, while Denmark's Anders Hansen earned an invitation by virtue of winning the 2009/10 Sunshine Tour order of merit.