Author: Paul Atkin
Published: 08:34 02/12/2014
The 2015 European Tour season gets under way this week, with the Nedbank Golf Challenge, which takes place at the Gary Player Country Club, Sun City. South Africa. This well established tournament has been played as a 12 player invitational event since its inception in 1981, until last year, when the size of the field was increased to 30 players, and included as an official event on both the Sunshine Tour and the European Tour. The first million dollar winners cheque in golf was pocketed here by Ian Woosnam, when he won the 1987 Nedbank Challenge, and between 2000-2002 the first prize was a staggering 2 million dollars! Despite a recent drop in prize money, the winner this week will still pick up a nice little cheque for a cool 1.25million bucks, which should see them nicely over the holiday period.
This mammoth 7,831yds Par 72 layout, is a flat tree lined track, with small greens and fairly narrow fairways, and water comes into play on holes 9,17 and 18. Expect thrills and spills on the risk and reward Par 5 ninth hole, which is definitely the signature hole on this golf course. Length has to be an advantage this week, particularly as the rough is reported to be not very penal this year, due to a dry spell of weather. Another factor to consider, is that nearly half the field are making their course debuts this week, so experienced Sun City campaigners could have a significant edge. Very hot and humid conditions are forecast, with little wind and a chance of a thunderstorm on Friday.
From a punting angle, this is certainly a tricky puzzle to solve, with half of this decidedly weakfish field having no previous course form, whilst fancied contenders like Martin Kaymer and Jamie Donaldson have given the distinct impression in recent events, that they are both golfed out and in need of a break. I do have a sneaking fancy for a couple of players, who arrive here slightly under the radar, but who have both shown plenty of previous form at this venue.
My main fancy is the much maligned Lee Westwood, who despite a win in the Maybank Malaysian Open in April has had a poor season, resulting in him dropping to his current 42nd place in the World Golf rankings.
With the negatives out of the way, lets concentrate on the positives which will hopefully see this horse racing fanatic back in the winners circle. He has the best course record in this years field by a mile, having won in both 2010 and 2011, and also being beaten in a play off in 2000, and he showed in the recent Turkish Airlines Open that he is in decent form with a Tied 8th place finish. He led the greens in regulation stats in Turkey, which shows his long game is in decent nick, and if the putter behaves, which it has in the past at this venue, he could end the year on a high note.
I also fancy the resurgent Ross Fisher to perform well this week. The 34 year old Englishman emerged from a spell in the wilderness, with a win in the Tshwane Open in South Africa earlier this year, his first win since the Irish Open in 2010. He arrives here in good form, having been beaten in a play off in the recent BMW Masters in Shanghai, and he has shown a definite liking for this track, with a Tied 3rd place in 2009, and a Tied 5th place in 2010. This layout suits good ball strikers, with plenty of length from the tee, so with both boxes ticked, expect a bold show from this likeable character.
Lee Westwood 11-1 E/W Bet365
Ross Fisher 28-1 E/W Coral