Frittelli leads a strong local pack at this week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge
There are several decorated South African golfers in the Nedbank Golf Challenge (NGC) field this week but none go into the centrepiece tournament on the local calendar with as much form and momentum as Dylan Frittelli.
While 2010 Open winner Louis Oosthuizen and 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel will always garner local interest‚ it’s Frittelli who is the form South African on the European Tour at the moment.
The 27-year-old from Johannesburg pushed former US Open and current Olympic champion Justin Rose at last week’s Turkish Open with a final round 64. Frittelli eventually lost out by a stroke‚ but he carries enormous momentum into "Africa’s major".
He chipped in three times during his final round in Turkey‚ which saw him take only 29 shots on the front nine last Sunday‚ and with his short game in fine fettle‚ he should be a contender at the Gary Player Country Club.
"Something’s clicking in my short game‚" Frittelli said after his final round in Turkey. "I felt really confident over all of those chips. I’m glad they got me in contention and [I] seemed to play pretty well under pressure."
The NGC forms part of the prestigious Rolex Series‚ which is made up of eight elite tournaments on the European Tour that pay a minimum $7m in prize money. Those tournaments also form part of the overall race to Dubai‚ which is decided over 47 tournaments throughout the season.
The top 30 players in the rankings will enter the Race to Dubai finals next week. Frittelli’s showing in Turkey took him to 18th and in line for a shot at the season finale. He brings the confidence of that run to Sun City and will be aiming to become the first South African winner since Trevor Immelman in 2007.
Standing in his way is current Race to Dubai leader Tommy Fleetwood‚ defending champion Alex Noren who is eighth in the standings, as well as several other top 10 players, such as Tyrell Hatton and Ross Fisher.
"I’m really excited‚" said Frittelli‚ who won his first European Tour title in June’s Lyoness Open. "I’m trying not to get too excited‚ obviously‚ but focus on playing well. I’ve got some good form from last week‚ so I hope to carry it over to this week. I’m obviously home now — South African conditions‚ high elevation and kikuyu grass. It’s what I grew up on‚ what I’m used to‚ so it’s pretty relaxing."
He says he played at Sun City about 10 years ago, "but my game has evolved so much over the years‚ and it’s really a different golf course. I had memories of it being a really tough challenge and a really hard course‚ but now it’s kind of looking like a puzzle. I just need to piece it together‚ use target golf‚ hit some good shots and get ready for Thursday".
The course‚ at just more than 7,000m‚ is the second longest on tour‚ although it’s accuracy and short-game sharpness that usually decides the winner.
"Last week was probably the best golf I’ve played this year‚" Frittelli said. "My goal before last week was getting into the top 30 on the Race to Dubai. Last week changed everything‚ so now‚ it’s time to re-assess and try and move up. It’s tough to refocus. Obviously‚ there’s a lot of media attention coming back to SA‚ but it’s nice to relax a little in the pro-am‚ and tomorrow‚ I’ll take a little time off‚ hit a few balls and relax‚ and Thursday‚ I’ll be ready to go."