It's officially the first event of the 2015 Race to Dubai but for Shane Lowry it's his last chance to end a brilliant 2014 with a win and he's determined to challenge for the $1.25m top prize in the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa.
The popular Clara man, who announced his engagement publicly on Saturday, broke into the world's Top 50 for the first time when he finished fifth at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.
It was one of seven top tens the 27-year old recorded this year but while he was second in the BMW PGA at Wentworth, he hasn't won since he claimed his second European Tour victory in the 2012 Portugal Masters and this week's 30-man, $6.5million event is a prize that would make his winter break all the sweeter. Prize fund breakdown
“It’s such a big event and a big purse, it’s a great chance to get a good start to the new season,” said the world No 47, who won €1.8m in his 27 starts this year en route to a career best 10th place finish in the Race to Dubai.
“I’m really looking forward to giving it everything this week and then taking some time off over Christmas and New Year. Going into the break off the back of a win would obviously be fantastic.
“When you’re playing well in the last few months of the season, you earmark this tournament on your calendar as one you’d really like to get into. I’ve never been here but I’ve always watched it on television and hoped that I’d play in it one day.
“I’ve been playing really well lately and I feel like a win shouldn’t be too far away if I keep doing what I’m doing. This would be a great week to do it, no doubt about that.”
The two-time European Tour winner added: “This is only my fourth time to South Africa, believe it or not. We have a lot of tournaments here but I’ve only played a few times. Sun City is a beautiful place and everything – the hotels, the food, the people – is great, so I’m looking forward to a very enjoyable week.”
Lowry tees off at the Gary Player Country Club in the first group of the day with Miguel Angel Jimenez and South African Tim Clark and he appears to have enjoyed the build up.
Travelling with his younger brother Alan, he met Gary Player earlier in the week and even allowed his younger sibling to hit a bunker shot in practice.
Competition for the top prize, capped at €998,051 for the Race to Dubai which will be run on a points basis this season — the Nedbank Golf Challenge is worth 864,975.57 points — will be fierce given the quality of the field.
World No 13 Martin Kaymer, the US Open champion, is the highest ranked player in the field ahead of No 23 Jamie Donaldson, No 27 Kevin Na, No 28 Joost Luiten and No 30 Charl Schwartzel with Thomas Bjorn, Rookier of the Year Brooks koepka, Ryder Cup player Stephen Gallacher and former world No 1s Luke Donald and Lee Westwood also in action.