The Nedbank Golf Challenge:
Through the decades
It was the "Golfing Coup of the Century", the first tournament with a million-dollar purse. In the inaugural Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City in 1981, American Johnny Miller beat a strong field, including heavy favourite Jack Nicklaus and course designer Gary Player, to seal his place in history.
Four years later, German Bernhard Langer did the same by winning on debut, after claiming his maiden Masters title earlier that year. Welshman Ian Woosnam bagged the first million-dollar winner-takes-all prize in 1987, beating seven others to the cheque with a stunning eagle on the 17th hole.
South Africa had to wait until 1988 for its first winner, when Fulton Allem took the honours. Compatriot David Frost repeated the feat a year later.
But the 80s belonged to the great Spaniard Seve Ballesteros, who topped the leaderboard in 1983 and 1984. In his first win, he even endured playing with a damaged ball, but said it didn't bother him.
"When I was a caddie in Spain, I couldn't even afford golf balls.
I used to play with a potato," Seve Ballesteros said.
The 90s were a time of true Southern African dominance in the Nedbank Golf Challenge. Frost became the first man after Ballesteros to defend his title with a one-stroke win over Jose Maria Olazabal in 1990. He followed this up by becoming the first man to lift three Nedbank Golf Challenge trophies when he won again in 1992.
Then Zimbabwean Nick Price took over the reins, destroying the field in 1993 to win with a record 72-hole total of 24-under-par, and by a massive 12 strokes.
This remains the largest margin of victory in the tournament’s history. He embarked on a fantastic run, claiming victory in 1997 and eclipsing Tiger Woods in a dramatic playoff in 1998.
There was a changing of the guard when newcomer Ernie Els ended the decade with his first Nedbank Golf Challenge title in 1999, bettering Price’s tournament record by one stroke and setting a new mark on 25-under-par.
The Big Easy kicked off the new millennium in style by defending his title and then dropping it to Spanish rival Sergio Garcia in 2001. He reclaimed it the following year, but was again dethroned by Garcia in 2003.
Els’s fellow South African Retief Goosen added his name to the list of winners in 2004.
A year later, American Jim Furyk beat the Goose and two others to emerge victorious from the joint largest playoff in the history of the tournament. He became one of only six players to have defended their Nedbank Golf Challenge titles in 2006.
Trevor Immelman took the honours in 2007, beating Justin Rose by a single stroke and setting off a drought for South African golfers in the tournament that was only to end in 2017 with Branden Grace's triumph.
"This is the one event that as a South African you want to win. It's 'Africa's Major' for a reason. There's a lot of history and great winners on the trophy," said Grace.
This was the decade when the Nedbank Golf Challenge became a European Tour event and earned a place on the Rolex Series. The new era began with Alex Noren's 2016 victory at Sun City – a year that also saw the first hole-in-one in tournament history recorded by Fabrizio Zanotti.
Lee Westwood has made the Gary Player Country Club home turf. The Englishman capped off a fine year in 2010 by claiming the world number one ranking from Tiger Woods and then ended it with an eight-stroke victory over Tim Clark in the Nedbank Golf Challenge. He defended his title in 2011 and showed his staying power by returning to win the tournament for a third time in 2018.
Will the 46-year-old clinch an unprecedented fourth victory in 2019,
or will Grace return to give cheer to local golf fans?