Notebook: Nedbank Golf Challenge grows, joins European Tour officially

Martin Kaymer at the Nedbank Golf Challenge
Getty Images
Defending Nedbank Golf Challenge champion Martin Kaymer will find his field of pursuers larger when he returns this season.
Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

Series: PGA Tour

Published: Tuesday, June 25, 2013 | 6:30 p.m.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa began in 1981 as an exhibition called the ''Million Dollar Challenge'' back when $1 million meant something, and for years was the crown jewel of the offseason. Now, it will become part of the European Tour schedule for the 2013-14 season.

It will be played Dec. 5-8 at the Gary Player Country Club, and the field will increase to 30 players from its traditional field of 12. The winner will get $1.25 million, with last place paying $100,000. Just as important, the cash now will count toward the money list on the European Tour and Sunshine Tour.

The leading 10 players from the top 30 on the Race to Dubai and the FedExCup will be eligible, along with the winners of the Asian Tour, Japan Golf Tour and AustralAsian Tour money lists. Players also can qualify through the South African Open and Alfred Dunhill Championship in the weeks before the Nedbank.

THE KING AND THE COAT: Arnold Palmer has 62 wins on the PGA Tour, seven major championships and the 1954 U.S. Amateur. Along with all those trophies, one of his most prized possessions from his career in golf is a Vicuna top coat from Frank Stranahan.

Of course, it's the story that makes the coat.

It belonged to Stranahan, the amateur great who died Sunday at age 90. Of their many practice rounds, one that stands out was Palmer and Dow Finsterwald against Stranahan and Al Besselink in 1957.

''We played 18 holes and we beat him for a couple hundred bucks,'' Palmer said Tuesday. ''Frank said, 'Are you going to give us a chance to get even?' And I said, 'Sure, what do you want to play for?' We were hassling over that and I said, 'Frank, you have a top coat that I really love. I'll put up whatever dollars I have and play you for it.'''

And they did. Palmer said Finsterwald shot 29 over nine holes, and the King shot in the neighborhood of 31. They won the match, and Palmer got the coat.

''I still have it,'' Palmer said. ''I've had it redone and remodeled. It's in my dresser. It's one of my favorite things in my golfing career – the coat I couldn't afford.''

DIVOTS: Jaime Diaz, the editor-in-chief at Golf World magazine, has been selected as the Memorial Golf Journalism honoree for 2014. ... Ken Duke's win last week moved him to No. 20 in the FedExCup standings. After The Greenbrier Classic, the leading five players from the top 20 in the FedExCup are exempt to the British Open. Duke currently is sixth on the list behind Billy Horschel, Boo Weekley, Charles Howell III, Russell Henley and Harris English. ... The Humana Challenge is changing its format to allow top amateurs to play on Sunday. Six top amateurs (top three low gross and low net) will be paired with two professionals and start on the back nine. The amateurs will not be partners with the pros. They will play individual stroke play from forward tees. 

STAT OF THE WEEK: The last four winners of the Travelers Championships earned their first PGA Tour title, the longest active streak of any tour event.

FINAL WORD: ''I know people like to see somebody make history and do all of that, but for players, it's frustrating to see someone win week after week after week.'' – Stacy Lewis on Inbee Park, who has won five times and two majors this year.