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Westwood chases third consecutive 'African Major'

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) –

Englishman Lee Westwood faces a stiff challenge at the Nedbank Golf Challenge invitation tournament

File picture. Englishman Lee Westwood kisses the trophy after winning the Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City on December 5, 2010. He retained the crown the following year and is hoping to become the first player to win three consecutive titles there.

Englishman Lee Westwood hopes to become the first player to win three consecutive titles in the Nedbank Golf Challenge invitation tournament.

The 39-year-old world number six won the “African Major” at the 7,162-metre Gary Player Country Club with a 15-under total of 273 last year.

In April he successfully defended his Indonesian Masters title, and his $3 million prize money in 2012 already more than triples his winnings last year. A win at the Sun City entertainment resort in the north west of the country will add $1.25 million to that.

“I’d love to be the first to win three Nedbank Golf Challenge titles in a row,” said Westwood, ahead of the Thursday tee-off.

“You just have to look at the names on the trophy to realise how special it is. It’s not the winning margin that is important to me, but it’s the coming back and defending the title that is so satisfying.”

Organisers were also pleased at the prospect of a third win.

Italy's Matteo Manassero will be among those competing at the Nedbank Golf Challenge

This handout photo from World Sport Group on November 11, 2012 shows Matteo Manassero during day four of the Barclays Singapore Open. The young Italian took the trophy to underline his reputation as one of the most exciting golf talents.

“Defending champion Lee Westwood has become one of the greatest players in the history of this tournament, and he now has a chance to make history at Sun City this year,” said tournament director Alastair Roper.

But some top-class players will be breathing hard down his neck.

Countryman Justin Rose, 32, is the highest-ranked of the 12 players after his second place finish at the DP World Tour Championship last week. Rose is fourth in the world.

South African Louis Oosthuizen, 30, follows directly behind Westwood in seventh position on the Official World Golf Ranking. He lost in a playoff against Italy’s Matteo Manassero in the Singapore Open earlier this month.

Oosthuizen and four others won European Tour titles this year — Francesco Molinari, Paul Lawrie, Nicolas Colsaerts, and Peter Hanson.

South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel, 2011 Masters champion, will also tee off.

Hanson from Sweden is another contender to watch, having taken the BMW Masters in Shanghai in October after beating world number one Rory McIlroy.

Seven of the victorious European team in the Ryder Cup challenge are represented, including former world number one Martin Kaymer from Germany.

“There is no doubt that the balance of power in the global game currently rests with European golf, and we are proud to have some of the best players in Europe competing in this year’s Nedbank Golf Challenge,” said Roper.

“We have a strong South African contingent who represent the future of the game,” he added.

“We have a field that has a total of 12 victories worldwide this year alone. So I think we can safely say that we have amongst the best and most in-form players in the game coming to Sun City.”

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