The penultimate European Tour event of the 2018 is the Nedbank Golf Challenge, hosted as ever at the Gary Player Country Club in Sun City. The course can stretch out to 7,800 yards from the very back tees, but altitude (3,700 feet above sea level) and warm conditions make the ball fly quite a bit further than normal.
The scoring has been down the last two years, in no small part to the narrowing of the fairways, down to about 20 paces in the landing areas. Missing the short grass into the kikuyu rough makes it nearly impossible to get the ball on the green. If it’s the same setup this year (and no reason to see Gary Player changing it), then we can expect the same scores of the last two years, with a winning total between 10 to 14-under.
Download Excel Odds Sheet: GolfOdds.Info – NEDBANK GOLF CHALLENGE HOSTED BY GARY PLAYER 2018
Sergio Garcia has turned the corner on a disastrous year by playing his best golf of 2018 in the past 6 weeks. There were signs he was back to something approaching his best with 24th at the Wyndham Championship. That could have been better after entering the final round 4 shots back but a closing 70 dropped him down the leaderboard.
He followed that up with 7th at the Portugal Masters, and then an excellent Ryder Cup, winning 3 out of 4 points. His win at Valderrama on his favourite course merely underlined his return to form. And this week he’s back on a course where he’s won twice before, but surprisingly hasn’t played since his second place in 2013.
I make the Spaniard the favourite this week, as opposed to a lacklustre McIlroy who has only played once here before in 2009 when it was a limited, end of season jolly, before withdrawing after two rounds. Indeed, on his infrequent visits to South Africa it’s been a very mixed bag for the Northern Irishman – 3rd, 2nd, two missed cuts and that withdrawal:
The Alfred Dunhill Championship
Nedbank Golf Challenge
BMW SA Open hosted by City of Ekurhuleni
It’s fair to say the tournaments above are or were played at a time of the year when McIlroy is taking a break from the game. He’s never once played in Hawaii at the Tournament of Champions, despite having been eligible six times to date. So teeing it up this week is a bit of a surprise, but maybe he’s taking his wife on safari? Who knows, but he’s a poor favourite, and checking the prices I can see he’s been eased a bit with a few firms.
I was looking at Louis Oosthuizen as a possible pick but I needed at least 18/1 to consider him – he’s a touch too short at the generally available 16/1. The South African does though have a good record on this layout, including a win back in 2007 when it was used for the Dimension Data Pro-Am; plus two top-10s for the last two years when it’s been solely a European Tour event.
Darren Fichardt is another South African who offers a tiny bit of value. Like Oosthuizen he’s a past course winner, this time from 2004 (Dimension Data Pro-Am), when he held off Nick Price to claim the trophy. Most recently he was 6th in this event last year, and he’s coming into this after a reasonable year where he has saved his best golf for his home country – 7th in the SA Open, winner of the Sunshine Tour Championship in April, and 2nd in the Sun Wild Coast Sun Challenge back in August.
I’ll stick with Andrea Pavan again this week. In Turkey a disastrous closing 9 holes in the second round scuppered his chances of a place. A 7-over par 44 started with an 8 at the 10th, where the field average for those 9 holes was 36.33 (I’ve removed from the calculation the 3 Turkish invitees who finished last). Since gaining his tour card via the qualifying school last year he’s got his first win and posted several high finishes. He’s found a consistency this year, and especially the last 4 months, that has him competing at the business end of tournaments.
Alexander Bjork comes into this week in far better form than he did last year, when he tied for 52nd place. A mid-season slump from The Open through to the Dunhill Links saw a string of missed cuts. Happily for the Swede he’s back to the form that saw his maiden win in China back in April. Second to Pepperell at the British Masters was followed by T28 at the WGC in China and T14 in Turkey on Sunday. A classy player from tee to green with a solid short game.
One last pick is another South African, Dylan Frittelli. He’s a very consistent player these days, and the only bad rounds he throws in are on very tough layouts. For example this year it’s been a 77 in R1 at The Masters; 78 in R1 at Shinnicock Hills followed by a R2 80; and a 79 in R2 at Carnoustie. Since that 79 Frittelli has played 28 rounds of golf, with his worst score a 73. 20 of those rounds he’s beaten the field average. A solid selection that I make around 50/1 with 60/1 on offer.
Sergio Garcia – 1pt win @ 11.00 (various)
Andrea Pavan – 0.5pt ew @ 67.00 (1/4 1st 5 various)
Darren Fichardt – 0.5pt ew @ 126.00 (1/4 1st 5 Ladbrokes,Coral)
Alexander Bjork – 0.5pt ew @ 51.00 (1/4 1st 5 various)
Dylan Frittelli – 0.5pt ew @ 61.00 (1/4 1st 5 Bet365)