EUROPEAN Tour golf specialist Vince Blissett (@Vince_RFC) returns to share his thoughts on the upcoming Nedbank Golf Challenge.
Nedbank Golf Challenge | 9th-12th November 2017 | Sky Sports
The penultimate tournament of the season sees the European Tour head to South Africa and The Gary Player Country Club at Sun City.
Justin Rose won for the second week running last week in Turkey to really close the gap to Tommy Fleetwood at the top of the Race to Dubai rankings. Rose has skipped this week though so Tommy has a chance to extend that lead again ahead of next week’s finale.
On paper it’s a tough course but scoring has tended to be low in recent years so instantly I’m thinking that good recent form is a necessity. Finding the greens, whilst scrambling well, and being accurate off the tee looks like the recipe to success.
As is always the case down in South Africa, the home-grown contingent start off with a slight advantage. Look through any of their results and the trends are very easy to see, their form on home soil is very good.
Home and altitude specialists prosper
The main reasons being, the grass is a different type than found elsewhere, Kikuya grass is mainly found in Africa and Australia, so getting used to it can take a short while.
The other thing is that most of the courses are played at altitude and again that can take a little getting used to as the ball travels further. Speaking of altitude, the first thing that comes to mind when I say that is the Omega Masters at Crans-Sur-Mierre, or put another way, the one on a mountain.
A quick look shows that three of the last four winners here have also won at Crans, so there’s something in that link too.
Having a South African or two onside for tournaments down there is something I always try and do but there are a fair number of very good players to choose from in that respect now.
The field is also very strong and it’s a wide-open tournament which is shown in the market. There are 19 players who can be backed under 28/1 so it’s not an easy one to decipher.
Just trying to whittle those 19 down is hard enough so the best thing to do is accept early on that I’ll be kicking myself come Sunday when looking at the top of the leaderboard.
Charl Schwartzel (28/1 Betfred)
First up though I’m going to pick out a South African and that will be Charl Schwartzel who is 28/1. He’s been plugging away on the PGA Tour in recent months with a fairly strong set of results without ever breaking into contention.
Back in his homeland I’m expecting him to kick on and do well this week. Unexpectedly his form in South Africa is something else.
Just taking this decade into consideration, he’s won the Alfred Dunhill x3, Joburg Open x2 and Tshwane Open x1 to go along with countless other top-fives and top-10s. His form at this tournament isn’t bad either reading 39-9-14-6 in the last four years.
As Charl plays predominantly on the PGA he doesn’t play many European Tour events outside SA now but back in 2009 and 2010 he recorded fifth and sixth-placed finishes at Crans so if you stretch the criteria slightly he ticks that box too.
Matt Fitzpatrick (20/1 Betfred)
A few weeks ago Matt Fitzpatrick almost delivered us a nice place when he finished ninth at the HSBC Champions. He followed that last week with 11th in Turkey, which extended his run of top-15 finishes to six.
The one that kicked that run off was a win at Crans, on that basis alone he’s worth backing. In these last few months Matt has been right up there stat-wise in DA, GIR and Scrambling for the most part.
The weakest part of his game has been his putting but last week he ranked fifth in that stat and if that carries over into this week he’ll be right up there challenging.
He hasn’t played in South Africa all that often which is a slight worry however he was 20th here last year so does at least know the course a little. At 20/1 he’s well worth backing.
Fabrizio Zanotti (100/1 Bet365)
Two triple-figure fancies to round things out this week, firstly Fabrizio Zanotti at 100/1, which looks far too big.
Last week the Paraguayan was eighth in Turkey which was achieved by ranking seventh in DA, sixth in GIR, first in Scrambling and fifth in PA. Combine that with a 16th place at this tournament last year and third a Crans a few months ago and you’ve got yourself someone who should be half the price.
He’s already picked up a win this season way back in February in Malaysia and if he plays like last week again could pick up another here.
Dean Burmester (250/1 BetBright)
Finally another South African and someone who also won early in the season and is too big a price, Dean Burmester at 250/1.
His recent forms nothing to shout about, although he was seventh in Portugal five starts ago, but it’s his South African form I’m interested in.
He plays a fair bit on the Sunshine Tour so excluding those and just looking at European Tour events in SA his form reads 1-11-4-17-4-31-10-11 over the last two season. That price plus that form is all the reasons I need to back him again.