Course Overview. The 7,834 yard Gary Player Country Club at Sun City is the venue this week – 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 can 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 South African Open that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well at this event.
As noted above, this venue is new to the event so there’s an additional combined stats sheet with course from relating to recent European and Sunshine Tour events held here: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader Stats | Combined Event Stats | Combined Course Stats.
Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.
Winners & Prices. 2020: Branden Grace, 14/1; 2019: Louis Oostuizen, 13/2; 2018: Chris Paisley, 125/1; 2017: Graeme Storm, 150/1; 2016: Brandon Stone, 55/1; 2015: Andy Sullivan, 33/1; 2013: Morten Orum Madsen, 80/1; 2012: Henrik Stenson, 14/1; 2011: Hennie Otto, 33/1; 2010: Ernie Els, 9/1.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Sun City is here. A mixed bag weather-wise this week with relatively cool conditions – as low as 63 Fahrenheit on Friday and the possibility of rain each day at various times. Winds will be relatively light at 5-10mph.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors. Analysing the final stats of the last 7 winners of the Nedbank Golf Challenge held here on this track gives us a little more insight into the type of player suited to this test:
- 2019, Tommy Fleetwood (-12). 62.5% fairways (8th), 72.2% greens in regulation (8th), 50.0% 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). 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 European Tour, the winning formula at the Gary Player Country Club has been to maximise greens hit coupled with a strong enough short game to minimise bogeys. Tommy Fleetwood’s chipping and putting was just about good enough here last year, however he hit sufficient greens over the 4 days to compile a winning score.
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 the Nedbank trophy over the years, I’d suggest an accurate type is equally if not more likely to win this event.
Incoming Form: In terms of the renewal at Randpark which opened the European Tour’s New Year schedule, eventual winner Branden Grace had finished 3rd his previous start at Leopard Creek before the festive break, although prior to that his form had been patchy at best.
The year before, also at Randpark, eventual winner Louis Oosthuizen had finished 5th on the PGA Tour’s CIMB Classic and 29th at the CJ Cup, before producing a 3rd place finish at Sun City on his last start to suggest that his game was very close.
Prior to that on other venues, Chris Paisley’s incoming form was patchy but the other recent winners had all shown some signs of life before their victory.
Morten Madsen had produced a 66-64 weekend at the Dunhill Links 3 events prior to secure his hitherto biggest cheque of the season at the back end of 2013; Andy Sullivan had also bagged his biggest earning week 3 events earlier by finishing 4th in Turkey; Brandon Stone had secured his first professional title (Lion of Africa Cape Town Open) 2 events prior to winning here in 2016 and Graeme Storm had produced his best effort of the calendar year by finishing 4th at Leopard Creek 2 events before winning:
- Branden Grace: MC/51/48/30/MC/60/MC/MC/46/MC/39/3
- Louis Oosthuizen: 5/13/16/28/24/28/31/58/32/5/29/3
- Chris Paisley: MC/55/5/3/MC/12/MC/MC/58/MC/23/MC
- Graeme Storm: 17/7/71/36/62/MC/MC/25/MC/22/4/MC
- Brandon Stone: 7/35/2/9/6/12/MC/23/MC/6/1/18
- Andy Sullivan: MC/52/11/MC/3/17/51/47/67/4/21/MC
- Morten Orum Madsen: 28/58/38/24/MC/14/MC/MC/16/12/51/63
Event Form: Local favourites Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen had both come close to winning their home Open before their respective successes. Form for the other winners is variable, however both Graeme Storm and Andy Sullivan’s event form at least hinted at something better:
- Branden Grace: 40/MC/6/21/21/9/65/15/4/2/7
- Louis Oosthuizen: MC/14/32/12/18/5/3/65/15/3
- Chris Paisley: 41/MC
- Graeme Storm: MC/4/MC/39/MC/32
- Brandon Stone: 39/MC/MC
- Andy Sullivan: 47/12
- Morten Orum Madsen: Debut
The conundrum this week centres around course form and event form, with plenty of course history from both the Nedbank Golf Challenge and other Sunshine Tour events needing to be weighted against the prize of a South African Open title, which for the locals at least is a pretty prestigious accolade.
The Gary Player track favours strong ball-strikers first and foremost, so players who can demonstrate good control from tee-to-green leap to the top of the shortlist.
My final selections are as follows: