American John Daly will play his first tournament in South Africa since the early Nineties when he tees it up in this week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.
The double Major champion joins 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and PGA Tour and Presidents Cup team member Brendon de Jonge in the field for this European Tour co-sanctioned tournament, which starts on Thursday.
Daly says he made the decision to play at Leopard Creek as part of his recovery from elbow surgery and the feeling that there was no better place to get tournament ready for 2014 than in the country where his career really started.
“It feels great to be back in South Africa. I’ve had some memorable moments in South Africa. This is where I got my start. I played really good on the Sunshine Tour for 1987 through to 1990 and it got my career going. I played really well over here and it got my confidence going, so that when I went back home it actually helped me get my tour card,” said Daly.
“I had my surgery done in July and have only played one tournament in four months. Johann Rupert kindly put me into his tournament here. I’m really fresh and I want to play. I don’t want to waste the end of this year. I’d like to get something going for the end of this year so I can get on track for next year.”
Daly had his first look at the top-rated Leopard Creek course on Monday and says he was blown away.
“It’s absolutely breathtaking. Now I know why it’s the No 1 course in South Africa. It’s not easy, but it’s beautiful. It’s well manicured. It’s a ball striker’s golf course – you’ve got to hit the fairways. And the greens are tricky. It the kind of course where you’d almost prefer a 20-footer to a 10-footer on these greens.”
And the “Wild Thing” has already enjoyed the wild heart of Africa. “We’re staying in a house overlooking the Kruger Park and we’ve seen elephants, a beautiful eagle and waterbuck. And I woke up to a cobra this morning. For us being from America you see that kind of stuff in the movies and seeing it live is just incredible.”