Nedbank Golf Challenge: Early Talking Points
This week's European Tour offering is the penultimate event in the 2017/18 calendar as the Nedbank Golf Challenge takes centre stage in Sun City, South Africa.
The Race to Dubai is really hotting up and only 60 golfers will survive to next week's climactic DP World Tour Championship finale at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
To help build up to events at the Gary Player Country Club, and to act as our preview of this week's European Tour event, here are five early talking points to whet the appetite.
South African native Brendan Grace took last year's Nedbank Golf Challenge after piecing together a scintillating final round 66 last year en route to his eighth European Tour title. He took the title by a single shot and, in doing so, became the first South African to win since former Masters champion Trevor Immelman back in in 2007.
Grace will fancy his chances this week as his form at the Gary Player Country Club is as rock solid as it comes. He has enjoyed three consecutive top-five finishes over the past three years and will be in the mood to go back-to-back.
Venue: Gary Player CC, Sun City, South Africa
Yardage: 7,817 yds
This golf course is famed as one of the most difficult in the whole of South Africa. Playing as a relatively flat course, it is also one of the longest in world golf and the players this week in Sun City will need to put plenty behind their ball from the tee box.
The signature hole at the Gary Player Country Club is the par-5 9th. It plays as a true risk-reward hole as it takes plenty of bravery from the best in the game to go for the water-guarded green in two
You can get a tour of this stunning golf course below:
Having not featured on a European Tour event since July's Dubai Duty-Free Irish Open, Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy returns to the fold as he aims to finish the 2017/18 season strongly.
Without a win of any sort since the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill back in mid-March, the four-time major winner will seek a first win on the European Tour this year. In fact, the last time he tasted a non-PGA Tour victory was at his national Irish Open at the K Club.
Hardly a surprise that Rory's shot of the week is number one on this list of stunning shots from the 2016 Irish Open...
Next week we will see the climax to the 2017/18 European Tour season take place upon the fairways of Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai and there are quite a few men who sit just outside the top 60 in the Race to Dubai standings and they will be hoping for a strong showing in South Africa.
Another South African in George Coetzee will need a good week while 2016 Masters champ Danny Willett is in a similar predicament. The European Tour's history-making sole member of the 59-club, Oliver Fisher, also finds himself the wrong side of the cutline.
Crowd favourite Andrew Johnston (or 'Beef' as we all know him better) is languishing down in 74th position.
The man who's (as an American might say) 'on the bubble' in 60th position is the Scot Chris Paisley.
Who Wins It?
Leading Chance: Haotong Li
It will have been tough for the Chinese superstar to have missed out on last week's Turkish Airlines Open in a playoff against Justin Rose but we expect that he will regroup and go again this week.
During last year's Nedbank Golf Challenge, Li shot an impressive final round 64 to shoot up the leaderboard on Sunday and into fourth position. If he is to prevail this week it will be a second European Tour win of 2018 after taking the Omega Dubai Desert Classic back in January...
Lively Outsider: Kiradech Aphibarnrat
Kiradech Aphibarnrat gave us all a glimpse of his undoubted talent again at the WGC-HSBC in Shanghai just a fortnight ago and, with a repeat of that level of play, he could go close once again.
He tasted victory earlier this year at the innovative ISPS Handa Super 6 Perth...
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