The Nedbank Golf Challenge is only making its third appearance on the European Tour but it is already such a popular tournament that it will be played twice this season to allow for it to become one of the final series events. It’s only since being co-sanctioned by the European Tour that the Nedbank field was increased from 12 to 30 players but there is still a tough set of criteria for players to qualify for a spot in the invite only tournament.
It’s clear from a look at the players competing this week how well regarded the Nedbank Golf Challenge is. With many players taking a break until the New Year, the likes of Henrik Stenson, Branden Grace and defending champion Danny Willett are all in attendance in Sun City, South Africa. As ever, the competition is held around the 7,831 yard, par 72 course at the Gary Player Country Club. Player deliberately designed the course to be a long test as the effects of altitude mean the ball travels around 10% further than it would at sea level. Even with the altitude this is a track where long hitters have flourished before, although the stats would suggest that the most important thing to do is hit the greens in regulation, not an easy task when the putting surfaces are as small as they are at Sun City.
Being able to hit the ball further than most is never going to be a negative in the world of golf but at Sun City, if you don’t couple distance with accuracy you can find yourself in big trouble. The event organisers have meddled with the length of the rough in recent years so it remains to be seen how penal it will be but it is worth betting on players with a good control of their ball off the tee. It is also worth backing players who’ve competed here before, as Danny Willett was only the second debutant to win the Nedbank when he blew everyone away last season.
Two names immediately jump out from the betting. Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat. Jaidee has played at the Gary Player CC twice and finished in the top 10 twice. He has shown a canny ability to score low on courses which look too long for him and is in a good run of form. He’ll have to rely on his ability to hit his long irons with accuracy and spin to stop them on the greens but he looks too big at 33/1 with Ladbrokes. Aphibarnrat is a much longer hitter than Jaidee but he couples his distance with a solid approach game and at 40 in the world he has all the class to win here at 30/1 with Betfred.
Thomas Aiken is making his debut at the Nedbank which should be a negative but he looks to have all the necessary tools for a good week in Sun City. Aiken is a very popular and consistent player on the Sunshine Tour, he’s competed in very high class fields before and having just earned a PGA Tour card for the first time he is in good spirits so bet on him to finish in the top 10 at 9/2 with BetVictor.