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Rory McIlroy will play in the 2017 BMW SA Open, says Ernie Els

Ernie Els is player-host for golf's second-oldest open championship. Arep Kulal/Asian Tour/Asian Tour via Getty Images

Ernie Els has revealed he will be calling in a favour next year when Rory McIlroy comes to play in the BMW South African Open.

Els is tournament host for golf's second-oldest open championship and admitted McIlroy is due to play in 2017 in return for Els contesting last year's Irish Open, which is hosted by McIlroy.

"I thought I'll leave [Rory] this year," Els explained. "But definitely next year we'll get him down here, maybe put him up in Cape Town, have a good new year down there, and get him to come and play here.

"I gave him two years to do his thing, and he's such a great friend of ours and a great supporter of our charity and stuff like that, and we might not even stop there. We're looking at some other really great players. It's coming, It'll happen. I'm really excited about that."

This year's SA Open gets underway on Thursday at Glendower Golf Club in the City of Ekurhuleni, close to Els' birthplace of Johannesburg. The 46-year-old admitted he was excited to put in a strong performance on home turf.

"This area was my home for the first 20 years of my life," he said, "I've played so much golf here. I have so many great memories so I'm really up for it. I love this golf course, so hopefully I can play well."

Also in the field will be last year's winner Andy Sullivan, who has a tough act to follow as he looks to build on a brilliant 2015 campaign which brought three wins and secured a Masters debut.

The Briton was ranked 150th in the world before winning his first European Tour title at the SA Open last year, but returns to Glendower ranked 34th after collecting two further victories.

The 29-year-old from Nuneaton claimed his second win in Johannesburg in the space of eight weeks in the Joburg Open and also won the Portugal Masters in October before pushing McIlroy all the way in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

That meant former supermarket shelf-stacker Sullivan finished eighth on the Race to Dubai and he is currently fourth in Ryder Cup qualifying ahead of the biennial contest against the United States from September 30 to October 2 at Hazeltine.

"Last year was unbelievable," Sullivan told European Tour Radio ahead of his title defence. "I'm not going to stand here and say that I'm going to try and win four tournaments this year because I know how hard it was to win three.

"My goals are to improve as a player and I know if I can improve as a player and manage myself better, I'm going to give myself the best chance to achieve as much as I can in this game. I learned that a lot last year with my wins.

"I know that golf is not a perfect game and I wasn't scared to go out there and play badly, I knew I could still get it round in a number and I think that is what the best guys do. I think I learned that last year and it has put me in great stead for this year."

A third round of 74 left halfway leader Sullivan seven shots behind Charl Schwartzel 12 months ago, but the tables were turned in the final round as the former Masters champion suffered a late collapse and Sullivan's closing 67 ensured a play-off was required.

Sullivan then produced a brilliant birdie from the trees on the first extra hole to clinch a dramatic victory and added: "It's nice to come back to where you've won before. Walking round yesterday just reminiscing on shots that I hit on the back nine and in that play-off, they're just fantastic feelings.

"When I got in that play-off, I felt like I was happy to be there and Charl was a bit frustrated. So I thought, as much experience as he had, I had the upper hand almost."

The Press Association contributed to this report.