It is heating up on the European Tour as the Final Series heads for Sun City in South Africa.
The entertainment resort plays host to the Nedbank Golf Challenge, the penultimate leg of the European Tour’s season-ending series, where 72 of the world’s best players will jostle for position in the Race to Dubai standings.
In a strange turn of events, the inclusion of the Nedbank in this year’s Final Series means it will have been played twice within the confines of this Tour season. In December 2015, Australian Marc Leishman secured a six-stroke victory over Englishman David Horsey.
Course: Gary Player Country Club
Built within an extinct volcanic crater, the Gary Player Country Club is, of course, named after one of the game’s true icons. A course which is unquestionably gettable, it was second easiest on the world tour last year, closely behind TPC Summerlin near Las Vegas – home of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
It provides a fair test as the third-longest course on the European Tour in terms of yardage, but it plays quite a distance shorter due to the high altitude and resulting longer ball flight.
The layout creates tight tee shots, so hitting the ball long and straight off the tee will be of immense importance.
Swede Henrik Stenson could take the Race to Dubai crown this week should he win and Masters champion Danny Willett fails to finish within the top 10.
After seemingly conceding defeat by opting out of the first two events in the Final Series, Rory McIlroy could be removed from the discussion entirely after the conclusion of the Nedbank. Of his two closest rivals, Stenson needs only to post a T-7 or better, while Willett could eliminate McIlroy with a solid T-2.
Each of the players on show will be keen to ensure they make the final 60 heading to next week’s DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. Even more tantalising is the $5 million bonus pool earmarked to be split between the top 10 come next Sunday evening.
Stenson and Willett must be respected. Of the two, Stenson is the man in form and ‘The Iceman’s’ ability to keep it steady under pressure may well see him prevail. It is possible that he may even wrap up the title early in doing so –- mostly due to Willett’s poor form and possible burn-out after having played an eye-popping number of tournaments this year.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello is a model of consistency. When he’s off colour he still plods his way around in respectable style; when on form there would be very few who could surpass his level of performance. One of Europe’s top point scorers at Hazeltine, the man from Las Palmas will be looking for a strong end to 2016, and his game seems suited to the challenge awaiting in Sun City.
Martin Kaymer is one of few previous winners in the field, and the German has showed in 2016 glimpses of his previous major-winning ability. Course knowledge could be vital this week at the Nedbank and few will know more than the 2012 champion.
Regardless of the winner, we are sure to be enthralled in North West Province’s entertainment capital, Sun City, this week.