Stars Come Out for Tour Championship


Sunshine TourJOHANNESBURG -- The top 70 eligible players on the 2004/05 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit gather at the Country Club Johannesburg this week for the season-ending Vodacom Tour Championship.
All but two of this season's winners having confirmed their entries, the only absentees being SAA Open champion Tim Clark and David Frost, winner of the Open Championship International Final Qualifier. Both players are fulfilling their commitments on the PGA Tour.
Charl Schwartzel will take an unassailable lead on the Order of Merit into the event, following a superb season in which he won his maiden title at the dunhill championship and finished second at both the SAA Open and the Telkom PGA Championship.
With Schwartzel out of reach, the main focus will be on the battle for second and third place, currently occupied by England's Neil Cheetham and Warren Abery respectively.
The top three players on the Final Order of Merit at the conclusion of the Tour Championship will all be invited to the $7 million World Golf Championships-American Express Invitational in San Francisco.
But players out of range of the top three have their own incentives, other than the chance of winning the Sunshine Tour's biggest first prize cheque aside from the two events co-sanctioned by the European Tour.
The winner of the Tour Championship wins automatic entry to another WGC event, the NEC Invitational at Firestone Country Club and the top 12 on the final Order of Merit are all invited to the Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland.
Schwartzel, of course, is guaranteed all of these privileges already, and is due another which he will enjoy all on his own - a place at the Open Championship at St. Andrews.
Competition is sure to be as intense amongst those players lower down on the Order of Merit, with finishers inside the top 50 earning full exemption on the Tour for the 2005/06 season.
One of those players with designs of entering the top 50 this week is Bradley Davison, who after a consistent season occupies 57th position on the Order of Merit.
Davison is seeking to reclaim the exempt status he lost when he finished in 51st spot on the 2002/03 Final Order of Merit.
'To be exempt on Tour opens so many doors and I'm sure that everyone from 51-70 will have it in the back of their mind this week,' said Davison.
'The reintroduction of Tour School is going to make it easier to get into events if you're not in the top 50 this year, but it is so much better knowing you're in every event.'
'Obviously, everyone will want to win this week but there are different goals for different guys and I'm sure it's going to be a little bit more tense than usual.'
Both the Pro-Am, which takes place on Wednesday, and the tournament itself beginning a day later will be played at the Woodmead Course at Country Club Johannesburg.