THE Nedbank Challenge was a great addition to Race To Dubai's Final Series in 2016, where Alex Noren (25-1) blitzed the field.
The Sun City event is now the second last of the Rolex Series events as well as the penultimate Race To Dubai stop. The field consists of 72 players battling it out for a prizepool of $7.5 million. At the end of the week the top 60 in the Race To Dubai standings will advance to the season finale at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
Tommy Fleetwood (20-1) still stands atop the rankings but Justin Rose is closing in following back-to-back wins on the European Tour. Justin doesn't fly to South Africa this week though and the Gary Player Country Club is the ideal venue for Tommy to build up a lead once more. It's all about the tee to green game at Gary Player CC and Tommy once again co-led the GIR stats in Turkey last week, while ranking 15th and seventh respectively in the driving accuracy and distance stats. He leads the Greens in regulation stat on Tour by a distance in 2017.
The last two winners of the Nedbank Challenge – Alex Noren and Marc Leishman – were both first in greens in regulation for the week and it's no coincidence. Both players blitzed their respective fields and only one other player – Henrik Stenson – has reached double digits under par here in the last two renewals (albeit in 2015 it was just a 30 man field).
Tyrell Hatton – (15-1) – just pips home favourite's Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen at the top of the betting.
The Gary Player Country Club at Sun City will play host to the Nedbank Challenge as per usual. The course sits at altitude in the Bushveld in the “backdrop of the Pilanesberg mountains in an old volcanic crater”. There isn't a lot of room for error from the tee, with “testing Kikuyu rough” and bush or trees lining narrow (18m wide on average) fairways.
The course is famed for its clover and kidney shaped greens and there will be many tough to access pin positions throughout the week. Surfaces are surrounded by strategic bunkering or guarded by false fronts and/or the tricky Kikuyu fibre.
Water is also in play on a few holes. Premium is on the tee to green game where total driving is a theme down past leaderboards and greens in regulation is hugely prominent. A high ball flight from approaches is an added positive attribute for success around here.
Best value bets
- Nicolas Colsaerts
- (40-1 ew Unibet)
I'm surprised by a couple of the prices on two guys that contended strongly in Turkey. Firstly, I have to really fancy the chances of Belgian bomber Colsaerts who was 12th in driving accuracy, second in driving distance and fifth in Greens in regulation in Turkey en route to a second-place finish.
Nico said in an on-course interview that he is driving it really well and that when he is doing that he's never far away from a strong challenge. Commentator Mark Roe then delved into Nico's GIR stats down the years; they were phenomenal and included an eighth place in the GIR ranking in 2016 and an even better fifth this season.
The former Ryder-Cupper owns that high ball flight from approaches needed for the Gary Player CC and can carry the confidence over from last week. Colsaerts has some course experience with a 10th and 37th place finish from two appearances here.
- Dylan Frittelli
- (50-1 ew Unibet)
The second player on the radar is the guy who tied with Nico for second in Turkey. Frittelli is a winner on Tour this year and is one of the most impressive of the up and coming Saffa golfers. He owns a fairways hit clip of 60% for the year and hits it over 300 yards on average.
Frittelli is currently ranking 12th in greens in reg in 2017 which gets my attention as well as the home player angle and on Kikuyu grasses that can be tough to play on if you're not used to it.
Frittelli showed a lot of bottle to stick around in Turkey and fired a closing round of 64 which included three chip-ins. He showed the same mental toughness when he won in Austria earlier in the year and I think he is overpriced, especially for a top 10, despite it being his competitive debut on the track.