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Ernie Els favourite to claim another Sun City win

South Africa's Ernie Els goes into the Sun City Golf Challenge on Thursday as the clear favourite to win the $2 million first prize.

The languid 35-year-old, who has won the tournament three times in 11 appearances, is aiming to become the first man to claim four titles in the 24-year history of the event at the par-72 Gary Player Country Club.

Only Zimbabwe's Nick Price, the former world number one, can match Els, while defending champion Sergio Garcia from Spain seeks his third title at Sun City in four years.

"I think my main challengers will be Retief (Goosen), Sergio (Garcia) and Lee Westwood," Els, the world number three, said.

"They can all hit the ball a long way and you definitely need a power game to able to win here."

In an effort to make the course stand up to the strength of modern golfers several changes have been made to the layout over the past 12 months.

"They started with the changes a few years ago and they have brought the driver into play more," Els said.

"But the longer hitters can at least downscale and on this course with the bunkering and the new firmer greens, approaches need to come in high in order to stop the ball quickly.

"The shorter hitters have to rely on their short games and they have to putt really well. If their games are a little off they have no chance."

England's Westwood, called into the field after the late withdrawal of Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke because his wife was ill, is confident he can finally win the title.

"Obviously the circumstances surrounding my participation are not the most pleasant," Westwood said.

"Darren and Heather are in my thoughts, but I have been given the opportunity so I have to make the best of it.

"I went through a period where I wasn't looking forward to playing, but now I am, and I particularly like this course.

"I don't think I have finished any worse than fifth here and of course I was beaten by Ernie Els in a playoff in 2000."

Els has won $6,585,800 at Sun City while Garcia has collected $3,475,000 from his three appearances.

The elite 12-man field also includes British Open champion Todd Hamilton, American Ryder Cup players Chad Campbell, Chris DiMarco, Jay Haas and Jim Furyk, Sweden's Fredrik Jacobson and Australia's Stuart Appleby.

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