The Nedbank Golf Challenge | Thursday 04 December - Sunday 07 December | Gary Player Country Club
This week the 2015 European Tour season tees off at the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City and as usual the golfing world is looking forward to what should be a competitive and entertaining four days. Since 1987 this event has been one that golf fans have kept a close eye on as some of the world’s finest golfers have battled it out for their share of what has always been a generous prize fund. Despite the recent change in format, which has seen the field increase from 12 to 30 players, there is still a lot of excitement surrounding this event. This is particularly true here at home where a number of golf punters will be lucky enough to be heading to Sun City to get to see these players in action.
The course measures in at a monstrous 7,830 yards and with the amount of ground the field will have to cover, distance off the tee is going to be key. The ability to hit it long is not the only crucial factor though. Although the course is relatively flat, the fairways are narrow and the greens are small so accuracy off the tee and the ability to hit irons well will be crucial in order to fare well here. While there is not a lot of water, it does come into play on a handful of holes, and wayward tee shots have in the past been severely punished by these hazards. Keep in mind that experience is also going to be beneficial as players don’t only have to contend with a tricky course. Summer has arrived and things could get hot out there. Despite the reputation that this tournament has gained over the years, this field is slightly disappointing, but don’t let that dishearten you. A cursory glance at the betting shows that there is a lot of value to be had. Let’s see if we can make the most of that.
To Win Outright
Louis Oosthuizen 9/1
Jamie Donaldson 10/1
Lee Westwood 10/1
Charl Schwartzel 12/1
Martin Kaymer 12/1
Thomas Bjorn (20/1 a win, 42/10 a place)
In a tournament that has had a number of back-to-back winners, it would be foolish to leave the defending champion out. Last year Bjorn let his course experience shine through as he edged out a field full of top class players to earn himself the win. That was not his first time near the top though as he had previously managed to finish in third position. Clearly he loves the course and despite the fact that he is not playing as well at the moment as he was last year, he should go close here. Each way on Bjorn looks like a great bet, get on.
Tim Clark (14/1 a win, 29/10 a place)
On a course that measures over 7,800 yards in total it’s probably not the best idea to back a player who is notoriously short off the tee, but for some reason, Tim Clark has always performed well at Sun City. On course form alone, he has to be backed this week. He burst back onto the scene in the second half of 2014 and won the Canadian Open and very nearly the WGC-HSBC Champions, had it not been for Bubba Watson’s remarkable chip out of the bunker on the 18th which forced a playoff that eventually saw Clark beaten. Perhaps the reason he does so well here is that he hits his irons accurately from around 150 yards in, a distance that he’s going to have to deal with a lot over the four days. An in-form golfer who has experience at Sun City, Clark is definitely one to keep an eye on this week.
Ross Fisher (25/1 a win, 53/10 a place)
Before the Final Series teed off there would have been no way to justify backing Ross Fisher as he’d been quiet for a vast majority of the season. However, much like Tim Clark, he has really come into his own over the past two months or so and with his tournament form he looks to be a pretty good bet at 25/1. He’s one of the few international players who will be used to the hot conditions in Africa and he’s showed in the past that he can win here. He hits the ball long and should make light work of this course. Each way seems to be a good bet on Fisher.
TOP BET: Miguel Angel Jimenez (50/1 a win, 10/1 a place)
Jimenez is by far the most interesting character on either of the Tours and everywhere he goes, a crowd of fans follow. He’s always been a favourite at Sun City and in every instalment he’s played in there have been stories of him gracing the casino tables with a whisky and cigar in hand until the early hours of the morning. Whilst lesser players may let such behaviour get the better of them, Jimenez possesses a fiercely competitive streak that has seen him win 21 European Tour titles, the most recent of which came this year at the Open de Espana and although he will be living the high life at Sun City, he’ll want to win. A fourth at the Masters showed that on his day he is still one of the best in the world and against this field he looks to be ridiculously overpriced at 50/1. Each way is the bet here; buy yourself some cigars and whisky with those winnings if he pulls through.