Nedbank Golf Challenge 2013
Sergio Garcia leads sobre Sun City day
December 6, 2013
With the skies over Sun City fittingly gray, Gary Player cried on a tee box and Ernie Els shared some of his memories of Nelson Mandela.
''It is going to be a tough day for the whole country,'' Els said.
A somber mood hung over South Africa's first major sporting event since Mandela's death as Sergio Garcia, wearing a black ribbon like the rest of the 30-man field, shot a 6-under 66 to lead after the weather-delayed first round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge on Friday.
In the early morning, golfers stood, some with caps removed, for a moment's silence before the first round restarted after being halted because of lightning on Thursday. Flags dropped to half-staff around the Gary Player Country Club.
A hooter sounded to start the brief moment of reflection on the life of the beloved anti-apartheid leader, who died late Thursday at 95.
Els, one of South Africa's first sporting heroes under Mandela's presidency, walked out of the players' lounge a little after 6:30 a.m. to talk of the times he spent with the former president. Els said that since about 1996 and well into his old age, Mandela used to call the golfer every time he won a tournament.
''They were special times and the little time we had together was very special. He was just the most amazing person I have ever met,'' Els said.
He also recalled Mandela partially ignoring him on a long-haul flight because the statesman instead wanted to talk to and play with Els' young daughter.
''We were sitting up front and then Mr. Mandela came onto the plane last,'' Els said. ''He was sitting in the front seat and he saw me and my daughter sitting next to me and all of a sudden he didn't really want to see me anymore, he wanted to talk to my daughter. He got Samantha to go up there and she sat on his lap and he spoke to her like she was his grandchild.''
Player, a South African golfer whose career so often clashed with the country's years of apartheid, said he and three friends had prayed and then cried together before playing.
''But it's also a day of celebration because he'd want us to celebrate,'' Player said. ''And we've got to celebrate for what he actually gave this country.''
Luke Donald leads before storm hits
December 5, 2013
Luke Donald's rapid start at the Nedbank Golf Challenge was halted by lightning on Thursday, leaving the former top-ranked Englishman ahead by two shots on 5 under through 11 holes of an incomplete opening round.
No one was able to play more than 12 holes on the first day at Sun City because of lightning and a thunderstorm.
Donald began the 30-man invitational with a birdie and an eagle and was 5 under when the day's second interruption for lightning forced players off for good. He was two ahead of Jamie Donaldson and Thomas Bjorn.
''I feel good over the ball right now and I am playing with confidence,'' Donald said, coming off a win in Japan two weeks ago.
Wales' Donaldson played 12 holes, while Denmark's Bjorn was 3 under with three birdies in his six holes. Brendon de Jonge was due to join those two on 3 under and two off the lead after spinning a wedge back into the hole from 110 yards for an eagle three on No. 9 right as the weather hooter sounded. His score wasn't yet officially registered as his playing partners hadn't completed the hole.
Playing for the first time since ending last season with the FedEx Cup and European money list title, Henrik Stenson was 1 under after seven and tied for fifth, with six straight pars after a birdie on No 1.
Boosted by his victory at the Phoenix Open, Donald's quick start at Sun City came off sweetly struck iron shots into the greens at his opening two holes. He also picked up back-to-back birdies at the end of his opening nine.
''Lovely start,'' he said. ''It doesn't get much better than three-three around here. Birdie, eagle and all of a sudden you are three under par through two holes. I played solid for those first 11 holes and hit a couple of very nice shots in that time that I was able to take advantage of.''
Defending champion Martin Kaymer is in the mix at 2 under, while Charl Schwartzel led the South African challenge as one of seven players tied at 1 under par. Sergio Garica is also part of that group, as is Peter Uihlein of the United States.
Ernie Els was 3 over after seven in search of his fourth title at Sun City and U.S. Open champion Justin Rose was 4 over after eight. Only Australia's Peter Senior, with three double bogeys in his first six holes to crash to 8 over through 10, was worse than Rose.
Having initially been kept off the course for nearly three hours through an earlier thunderstorm, the players came off for the second time in late afternoon and will all have to come back at 7:30 Friday morning to complete their opening rounds.