Course Overview. The 7,834 yard Gary Player Country Club at Sun City is the venue for the Nedbank Golf Challenge – on paper the course looks a brute in terms of length, however it’s worth considering that the altitude will reduce that yardage as it often does in South Africa, and officials have a tendency to play around with tee positions between rounds, so don’t expect this to play purely into the hands of the bombers and nobody else. That said, length is certainly of assistance on the par-5s which provide the best scoring chances and those players with a level of controlled aggression will tend to enjoy this track more than most.
The fairways aren’t particularly wide for this style of long, South African course and the greens are slick bentgrass that will reap a score for players who can find putting surfaces in the right number, however veering off of the fairway can leave players in some very tricky spots with thick rough in places, plus trees and bushes there to punish the errant.
Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well at this event.
The Nedbank wasn’t played during 2020 and 2021, however Sun City did host the South African Open in those years and those results have also been included on the applicable pages:
Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader Stats | Combined Stats.
Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.
Winners & Prices. 2022: Tommy Fleetwood, 11/1; 2019: Tommy Fleetwood, 14/1; 2018: Lee Westwood, 40/1; 2017: Branden Grace, 16/1; 2016: Alex Noren, 20/1; 2015: Marc Leishman, 66/1; 2014: Danny Willett, 25/1; 2013: Thomas Bjorn, 30/1.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Sun City is here.
Sun City should live up to its name this week with four glorious days of largely cloud-free skies expected. Temperatures will edge towards 90 Fahrenheit by the weekend and winds will be light at 5-10mph.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors.
Analysing the final stats of the last 8 winners of this event gives us a little more insight into the type of player suited to this test:
- 2022, Tommy Fleetwood (-10). 64.3% fairways (28th), 81.9% greens in regulation (2nd), 61.5% scrambling (17th), 1.76 putts per GIR (19th)
- 2019, Tommy Fleetwood (-12). 62.5% fairways (8th), 72.2% greens in regulation (8th), 50% scrambling (40th), 1.79 putts per GIR (32nd)
- 2018, Lee Westwood (-15). 51.8% fairways (36th), 76.4% greens in regulation (4th), 52.9% scrambling (14th), 1.64 putts per GIR (1st)
- 2017, Branden Grace (-11). 42.9% fairways (54th), 62.5% greens in regulation (31st), 59.3% scrambling (12th), 1.64 putts per GIR (4th)
- 2016, Alex Noren (-14). 46.4% fairways (39th), 75% greens in regulation (1st), 55.6% scrambling (13th), 1.69 putts per GIR (4th)
- 2015, Marc Leishman (-19). 50% fairways (12th), 76.4% greens in regulation (1st), 94.1% scrambling (1st), 1.73 putts per GIR (8th)
- 2014, Danny Willett (-18). 46.4% fairways (23rd), 70.8% greens in regulation (3rd), 85.7% scrambling (1st), 1.69 putts per GIR (3rd)
- 2013, Thomas Bjorn (-20). 64.3% fairways (3rd), 77.8% greens in regulation (1st), 81.3% scrambling (3rd), 1.66 putts per GIR (4th)
Since its move to the DP World Tour, the winning formula here has been to maximise greens hit, coupled with a strong enough short game to minimise bogeys. The card would suggest that bombers should thrive here, however with the likes of Thomas Bjorn as well as Trevor Immelman and Jim Furyk (twice) having lifted this trophy over the years, I’d suggest an accurate type is equally likely to win this event.
As a bonus, we also have stats from the two SA Opens held here at Sun City over the pandemic period:
- 2021, Daniel van Tonder (-16). 66.1% fairways (14th), 70.8% greens in regulation (10th), 76.2% scrambling (1st), 1.71 putts per GIR (14th)
- 2020, Christiaan Bezuidenhout (-18). 66.1% fairways (10th), 84.7% greens in regulation (1st), 72.7% scrambling (2nd), 1.70 putts per GIR (5th)
Statistically these two latest results don’t change my previous assertion, as both van Tonder and Bezuidenhout played nicely from tee-to-green, and putted and scrambled well.
Strokes Gained: From a Strokes Gained perspective, we have the 2019 and 2022 Nedbank events to work with, plus some very patchy stats from the 2020 SA Open:
- 2022: Tommy Fleetwood: T: 16th; A: 6th; T2G: 2nd; ATG: 2nd; P: 34th
- 2020: Christiaan Bezuidenhout. T: 28th; A: 1st; T2G: 2nd; ATG: 3rd; P: 7th
- 2019: Tommy Fleetwood. T: 1st; A: 7th; T2G: 1st; ATG: 21st; P: 21st
All-round games were good for the winners, although SG Approach and SG Tee-to-Green were the most consistent pointers from the three events.
Key: T: SG Off the Tee; A; SG Approach; T2G: SG Tee to Green; ATG: SG Around the Green; P: SG Putting.
Incoming Form: In terms of incoming form, belated defending champion Tommy Fleetwood arrived here last year off the back of a fast-finishing 4th place at the CJ Cup on his previous start, in a season where he’d also notched top-5 finishes at the US PGA Championship and The Open. On a course he clearly enjoys, 11/1 was a fair price.
Tommy’s win in 2019 followed a 53rd place finish on his previous start at the WGC HSBC Champions which didn’t offer a great deal of encouragement, however he did close with a 67, his best round of the week, which was among the better efforts on that Sunday. Prior to that, a couple of decent enough efforts on the PGA Tour, coupled with 5th at the Dunhill Links and 8th at Crans, was enough to suggest he wasn’t playing at all badly.
2018 winner Lee Westwood had heavily hinted that a first win for 3 years might be on the cards with 5th place finishes at the Italian Open and Valderrama Masters in his last 12 starts, as well as a play-off defeat to Matt Wallace in Denmark.
Prior to that, Branden Grace hadn’t recorded a top-5 finish all year, however 6th at the Open Championship and 15th on his previous start at the WGC HSBC Champions hinted at some decent underlying form; conversely Alex Noren completed his 4th victory of the year here in 2016 and was clearly playing some excellent golf.
Marc Leishman had lost out in a play-off at the Open Championship earlier in the year in 2015 and 11th on his penultimate start at Sheshan showed some positive form also. Danny Willett had recorded 3 top-10 finishes in his previous 8 starts before winning here in 2014, the most recent of which was in Turkey on his penultimate start, whereas Thomas Bjorn had finished 2nd at the World Cup on his last start and had won at Crans a few weeks before:
- 2022, Tommy Fleetwood: 5/35/10/MC/46/4/4/57/22/39/53/4
- 2019, Tommy Fleetwood: 23/2/4/43/11/13/8/60/5/20/22/53
- 2018, Lee Westwood: 5/WD/19/32/61/61/2/12/36/MC/5/35
- 2017, Branden Grace: 9/50/15/6/28/MC/MC/25/47/32/15/15
- 2016, Alex Noren: MC/8/1/46/49/2/1/34/11/1/37/12
- 2015, Marc Leishman: 5/MC/39/MC/2/33/MC/MC/MC/29/11/MC
- 2014, Danny Willett: 11/MC/30/13/5/32/MC/7/WD/21/4/21
- 2013, Thomas Bjorn: MC/73/MC/MC/58/1/57/5/39/18/21/2
Event Form: The last 3 winners, Fleetwood (twice), Westwood and Grace, each had strong enough records here at Sun City to encourage further investigation. Prior to that, the previous 4 winners were all making their Nedbank debuts the week that they won:
- 2022, Tommy Fleetwood: 14/21/14/10/1
- 2019, Tommy Fleetwood: 14/21/14/10
- 2018, Lee Westwood: 6/5/1/1/5/16/28/6
- 2017, Branden Grace: 20/4/3
- 2016, Alex Noren: Debut
- 2015, Marc Leishman: Debut
- 2014, Danny Willett: Debut
- 2013, Thomas Bjorn: Debut
In good weather this event encourages a winning score of around -18 to -20; however trickier conditions over the past few renewals have kept the winning scores down to between -10 to -15. Birdies are there to be made for players who can find the majority of greens in regulation, however bogey avoidance is equally important on a course which isn’t a complete pushover.
Par-5 scoring usually makes up around half of the red numbers that a player posts around these parts, so maximising those opportunities while keeping out of trouble on the rest of the course is the order of the day. A positive record on other tracks at altitude – be that of the longer variety in South Africa or the shorter track at Crans – are a plus, as those players have shown an aptitude to adapt their game to suit the varying yardages.