The first 32 renewals of the Nedbank Challenge may have been restricted to just 12 players but it is now the penultimate event in the European Tour’s Rolex Series. That means 72 players will be converging on the Gary Player Country Club in South Africa on Thursday to do battle over a par 72 layout that measures 7,831 yards. However, as it is at altitude, the course really plays around 10% shorter than that. It’s pleasurable on the eye too, as it’s built in an extinct volcanic crater, whilst a variety of wildlife can be seen around the surrounding perimeter.
The course provides quite a unique test for players, as the fairways are quite narrow and the greens smaller than average, whilst the Kikuyu rough requires players to be a little more creative around the greens than at some courses. Therefore, it’s no surprise that many previous winners have produced greens in regulation statistics that have been amongst the week’s best, whilst tidy scrambling is usually a must too. However, Brandon Grace showed last year that a hot-putter can get the job done as well, though that is the exception to the rule rather than the norm.
Therefore, this week, it could be worth backing players that have looked in control of their long games in recent weeks. That’s not a comment that particularly applies to market favourite Rory McIlroy, and the world number six withdrew from the event on his only other appearance here back in 2009. Indeed, it’s probably only Rory’s popularity that has kept him ahead of second-favourite Sergio Garcia in the market this week.
Admittedly, Garcia hasn’t been quite at his best either for most of the season, but he looked rejuvenated by the Ryder Cup when winning at his beloved Valderrama in the Andalucia Masters. That win was even more impressive considering he had the duties of being host that week too. If Garcia brings even his “b” game this week, he’s got all the prerequisites to win here, as he did in 2003, whilst he was also runner-up on his last visit in 2013. Therefore, Garcia has to be of interest this week against mainly inferior opposition.
This could also be a week to give a chance to another Ryder Cup Legend in Lee Westwood. I confess, he may well be a better back-to-lay proposition nowadays as, even if he does get into contention, he seems to find a way to blow it on Sunday afternoon. However, there have been plenty of glimpses that his tee-to-green game isn’t far from its best recently and, if it is again here, this is a course where he has plenty of fond memories. He won here in both 2010 and 2011 and finished sixth here last year when probably not playing anywhere near as well as he is now. At the price, he looks worth backing each-way in the hope that his first three rounds put us in a trading position come Sunday.
Finally, I can’t resist adding a third player to this week’s betting portfolio and that’s Matt Wallace. Much has been made of the improvement Wallace has made this season and, though he didn’t figure on the leaderboard here on debut last year, his scores suggested he learned quickly how to play the course as the week went on. He started with a pair of 75’s but followed those with a 71 on Saturday and a 69 on Sunday, which was the joint-seventh best weekend total. Considering his all-round improvement since, if he can start like he finished last year, he must have at least an each-way chance, whilst he’s a proven closer if he does get into contention.
Nedbank Golf Challenge Free Tips:
Sergio Garcia 2 Points Each-Way @ 11.00 Bet365 and Betvictor
Lee Westwood 1 Point Each-Way @ 41.00 Betway, 36.00 Ladbrokes and WilliamHill
Matt Wallace 1 Point Each-Way @ 51.00 SkyBet, 46.00 Bet365 and Unibet
Odds Correct at Time of Publication