Nedbank Open
  • Full preview of the Nedbank Open with The Golf Insider
  • Four value picks, ranging from $23 to $46 in the market

The week’s first tournament sees the European Tour “chase the sun” as it heads off to South Africa.

The Nedbank Challenge is a familiar name to those who’ve followed the tour for a while, but in recent times the format has undergone a slight change.

That said, it still promises to be a highly-competitive week’s golf with several big names, and former winners, in the field.

Here’s a full preview of the action…

Nedbank Challenge: The Tournament

Those of you with relatively good memories will recall this event being a twelve man, top-quality, end-of-year event that always featured a host of big names. But over time, and since joining the European Tour proper, a twelve-man field became a thirty-man field in 2013… and then in 2016 it was further extended to around 64 players. It’s still very much an exclusive affair, but slightly less exclusive than it was before! Quality-wise it’s again not quite what it once was, but in an iconic location with good conditions and pots of prize-money, it’s no surprise that an above average field has been assembled once again this year.

Nedbank Challenge: The Course

We’re at the Gary Player Country Club. Opened in 1979, it’s a par-72 laid out over a monster 7,831 yards – but the players are significantly helped here by playing at altitude. It’s been the host course since 1981, and located in the shadow of the Pilanesberg Mountains it’s one of the best regarded tracks seen on the European Tour. On account of its length and set-up, scoring will not be easy… this week’s winner will certainly earn the title!

72-Hole Record

263: Ernie Els (1999).

18-Hole Record

63: Ernie Els (2002), Henrik Stenson (2008)

Nedbank Challenge: Past Winners

2018: Lee Westwood

2017: Branden Grace

2016: Alex Noren

2015: Marc Leishman

2014: Danny Willett

Nedbank Challenge: The Field

A select field of 64 players this week in South Africa. Louis Oosthuizen is the $15 favourite with Ladbrokes.

Nedbank Challenge: The Weather

The forecast is poor to begin with – thunderstorms are expected on Thursday – but conditions will improve from Friday onwards, with Sunday looking by far the best day. Temperatures will remain in the mid 80s all week, and wind speeds low. So the first day apart, it’s not too bad a week.

Nedbank Challenge: Value Tips

Matthew Fitzpatrick: $23 with Ladbrokes

It’s easy to make a case out for the tournament favourite (Oosthuizen), but it’s harder to get excited about his price. Same goes for Tommy Fleetwood and Henrik Stenson. Pick of the value for me at the front end of the market is Fitzpatrick. His recent form is rock solid with a runner-up spot in Italy, backed up with the Top 10 in the recent WGC event in China. Fitzparick’s neat and tidy game is well-suited to the course as well, and form figures of 27-8-20 show that he’s had enough of a sighter at the Gary Player facility to challenge. Proven at altitude as well (being a past winner at Crans-sur-Sierre) there’s another tick to put next to the Englishman’s name. A European Tour winner in each of the last four years, I’m sure he’ll want to keep up that run – and this week’s field is good, but not stellar. If he gets into the tournament early, then I fancy Fitz to be there or thereabouts come Sunday.

Branden Grace: $36 with Ladbrokes

It’s no secret that Grace is on a woeful run of form right now. 30th place at the Northern Trust back in August is his best result since May this year. However, his form at the Gary Player course is superb with form figures of 4-3-1-11 over the last four years. What makes this pick more appealing is the fact his form when coming here has often been poor and uninspiring, yet when he arrives, and is surrounded by friends and family, at a course he knows better than 95% of the field, he seems to find his touch. This week accuracy and distance control at altitude is key, and although Grace has been struggling to make cuts, his stats have actually been quite good. On his last four starts he’s averaged 68% of fairways and 77% Greens-In-Regulation, so despite the poor results he’s still playing solid enough from tee-to-green. Years gone past he’d have been a third of the price here, so I think he’s worth an interest to reignite that spark on a course he loves.

Shubhankar Sharma: $41 with Ladbrokes

Sharma is on a fine run of form right now and last week finished seventh in Turkey, thanks to two superb rounds of 64. He’s striking the ball great, and looks to have found his “A-Game” again after a slow start to 2019. He finished 21st in Portugal a fortnight ago, and seventh at the Italian Open in October. He won the Joburg Open in 2017, and finished 27th on debut here last year, and improved a lot over that weekend after getting use to the course and conditions. The greens this week are small and hard to hit, so Greens-In-Regulation (GIR) is a must, and Sharma has ranked in the Top 4 for GIR in three of his last four starts. He looks over-priced to continue his fine run of form and claim his second win in South Africa.

Christiaan Bezuidenhout: $46 with Ladbrokes

Bezuidenhout looks to have been completely ignored this week due to his poor outing last week in Turkey, even though prior to this he was going off the same price at the WGC in China against the world’s best players. Now he arrives in South Africa, his homeland, and a place where he clearly feels comfortable playing… and he’s almost the same price. Bezuidenhout won the Andalucia Masters on a layout which, like the Gary Player course, requires accuracy and precision from tee-to-green. Since then he finished twelfth in the Swiss Alps, another course reliant on accurate types, and third at the BMW PGA at Wentworth, which further highlights his ability to play great golf on tough courses. He finished 17th in China but was going a lot better until a poor final day so all-in-all, he looks well over-priced to go well in front of his home fans.

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