European Tour: Nedbank Golf Challenge Preview

Golfer admires his shot

The European Tour heads to Sun City for its penultimate stop as golfing icon Gary Player plays host to the Nedbank Golf Challenge.


Nedbank Golf Challenge | 8 - 9 November | Gary Player Country Club, South Africa 

Known affectionately as ‘Africa’s Major’, the Nedbank Golf Challenge began its life back in 1981. Johnny Miller won the inaugural event and pocketed a then mind-boggling $500 000. The event remained a 12 man invitational affair until as recently as 2013. It was then assimilated into the European Tour and welcomed gradually increasing fields. It is now the 7th Rolex Series Event and the added significance has resulted in an increasingly competitive field.

Gary Player Country Club is a parkland style course that was actually constructed in the remains of an extinct volcanic crater. It features reasonably narrow kikuyu fairways and fairly punishing kikuyu rough. The smaller than average bentgrass greens are well defended by bunkers and measure a fairly lethargic 11 on the stimp. The rain forecast seems to suggest that this may be something of a straight shootout in receptive conditions. While this does appear to be an absolute monster at over 7,800 yards, the altitude tends to shave off 10% of the distance.

The presence of four-time Major Champion Rory McIlroy amongst the international contingent certainly lends some added gloss to proceedings. A resurgent Sergio Garcia is also present while form players such as Hao Tong Li and Kiradech Aphibarnrat look to clinch maiden Rolex Series titles. There are a slew of former champions in attendance, with both Martin Kaymer and Danny Willett looking to regain their places amongst the European elite. Lee Westwood lurks below the radar while a strong South African contingent is headed by defending champion Branden Grace.

Past Winners
2017: Branden Grace (-11)
2016: Alex Noren (-14)
2015: Mark Leishmann -19)
2014: Danny Willett (-18)
2013: Thomas Bjorn (-20)

To Win Outright:
Rory McIlroy 13/2 | Sergio Garcia 11/1 | Haotong Li 14/1 | Louis Oosthuizen 18/1 | Shane Lowry 20/1

Matt Wallace- To Win 45/1, To Place 19/2
Wallace will be looking for his fourth victory of the European Tour season this week. His achievements have largely been kept under the radar. This is likely a consequence of the highly mercurial nature of his play. Wallace won the Hero Indian Open on the back of a T19 finish. He then captured the BMW International Open in lieu of a disappointing 51st at the Italian Open. So despite entering this event in poor form, Wallace still carries a tangible sense of threat. Additionally, Wallace held the best putting stats on debut here last season. He also won the Hero Indian Open on a Gary Player designed course.

Erik Van Rooyen- To Win 55/1, To Place 12/1
Erik Van Rooyen has perhaps been the most consistent of all the South African players on tour this season. It’s perhaps no surprise that his best result this season came on home soil. He finished second in the Joburg Open while he has also impressed in far more illustrious company this season. He led the Irish Open going into the final round while he kept the pace admirably at the Open Championship. Van Rooyen has only played here competitively twice before, with a commendable ninth place on the Sunshine Tour two years ago. Van Rooyen has the booming length that will aid him in negotiating this layout, particularly with soft conditions expected this week.

Darren Fichardt- To Win 125/1, To Place 25/1
43-year-old South African veteran Fichardt enjoyed an inspired outing last year at the Gary Player Country Club, finishing in a tie for sixth. That made him the second highest placed South African behind the champion Grace. Fichardt has decent form at Crans, a course that is often seen as a decent corollary to Gary Player Country Club. He has top 10’s in the last two editions of the European Masters. Fichardt enters this event in decent from after a commendable 23rd place in Turkey. 14/1 looks a decent wager for him to finish top of the South African contingent. Many of the top South African players look out of sorts- except for the aforementioned Van Rooyen.

The Man to Beat- Sergio Garcia- To Win 11/1, To Place 24/10
I would never have thought prior to the Ryder Cup that I would have been fancying Spanish heavyweight Garcia for anything. The Spaniard has endured a wretched year, missing the cut in all four Major Championships. But Thomas Bjorn’s controversial pick has a new lease of life following that Ryder Cup success. His success at Valderrama just amplifies his rejuvenation. Garcia is a three time runner-up in this event and will look to add this prestigious event to his resume.

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.net

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