Betting markets and overview
The Nedbank Challenge has been added to the Race To Dubai's Final Series for the first time and the winner of the 72 man field will receive over €1 million. The Gary Player Country Club in Sun City will remain host. The course sits at altitude in the backdrop of the Pilanesberg mountains in an old volcanic crater. Rory McIlroy is a notable absentee and he seems to have given up on his quest to win the Race To Dubai and Fedex double. That leaves Alex Noren - 19.00, Danny Willett - 51.00, and current money leader Henrik Stenson - 5.00 - to battle it out over the final two weeks. Home boy Charl Schwartzel is the danger man at 19.00 in the betting.
Over in the US the penultimate official PGA Tour event of the calendar year comes from Mayakoba - a very popular holiday resort destination for a number of the players in the Playa Del Carmen area of Cancun in Mexico. Graeme McDowell - 34.00 - won a three-way playoff in a Monday finish here last year. High winds were a factor late on in the event, but since a move to the Fall series in 2013, the OHL Classic in general has seen lower scoring; this is due largely to the elements. The early forecast suggests benign conditions for the most part over this week. Russel Knox - 15.00 - was involved in the playoff last year and he comes in as market leader ahead of ball striking supremo and native language speaker Emiliano Grillo - 21.00. Harris English - 34.00 - set the tournament record (263) en route to victory in 2013 and is one to watch after 4 consecutive 67s saw him post a T4 at the Shriners.
The courses - Gary Player Country Club (Sun City Resort)
The Nedbank Challenge track at Sun City stretches over 7,800 yards in length (only eclipsed by Copperleaf on the main recent European Tour circuit) so I like to look to the bigger hitters despite the aforementioned altitude. There isn't a lot of room for error from the tee, with "testing rough" and bush or trees lining many fairways. The course is famed for its clover and kidney shaped greens - each of which is surrounded by strategic bunkering, water hazards, or guarded by false fronts, so accuracy with the irons will also be needed. In summary, length combined with precision from the tee and a high ball flight from approaches is a good concoction for success around here, where " the multi-faceted greens leave plenty of options for tricky pin positions throughout the week" - European Tour
El Camaleon GC, Playa Del Carmen
El Camaleon GC is a Greg Norman masterpiece that's hosted the now OHL Classic since 2007 and it celebrates its 10th edition in 2016. Fedex Cup points are on offer. The sub 7,000-yard track is described as a "tight little coastal gem". It's a par 71, comprising undulating well protected greens set to run circa 11' on the stimp. There's a premium on ball striking and positional play here and even more so this year with the primary rough now up 1 inch both along the fairways and around the greens. Past leaderboards have tended to be dominated by the more accurate or experienced players. Form at Waialae, Harbour Town and Trump International will give a good profiling guide towards the player type you should be targeting this week. Par 4 scoring is key at El Camaleon. Top ball striker Charley Hoffman - 67.00 - led the par 4 scoring stat en route to success here in 2014.
Best Bets - Nedbank Challenge
Lucas Bjerregaard - 151.00 or 26.00 - and Kiradech Aphibarnrat - 81.00 or 16.00 - are two players that are in a bracket I like to call "simmering" at the moment. Lucas has a string of recent finishing positions averaging around 30th spot. He's making a lot of birdies but also costly mistakes. Kiradech's last three events have all been top 25s. He's been playing sporadically but it was a nice warm up for him in Turkey before the final run in.
Both players are long drivers of the ball who can take apart par 5s and the main reason I'm drawn to them this week is their driving stats in Turkey. I alluded to their long hitting and they ranked 13th and 21st respectively for driving distance at the Turkish Airlines Open. Surprisingly to me though, Aphi ranked 10th in driving accuracy, and even more surprisingly, Lucas was 2nd in driving accuracy. He was also 20th in GIR. If their Total Driving stats continue in the same vein at Sun City, expect them both to challenge.
Best Bets - OHL Classic
Two guys stand out for me at the OHL Classic as well. Both are in the midst of a resurgence to form and both are known for their ball striking ability. John Huh - 67.00 or 14.00 - already has a win under his belt at El Camaleon back at the OHL classic in 2012. His form line reads T35 T39 T10 in the Fall Series and only a double bogey down the stretch at the Shriners on Sunday cost him a title shot there. Huh opened with a 62 at TPC Summerlin. He ranked 9th in driving accuracy last season and sits 29th in strokes gained tee to green in his three events so far in 2016-17.
Kyle Stanley - 71.00 or 15.00 - had some decent finishes towards the back end of last season including top 25s at the John Deere and Wyndham Classics. He's started the 2016 wraparound season with T22 and T7 finishes, and totalled a score of -15 under par at TPC Summerlin. Stanley had been out of form for a while previous but does own a top 15 finish at El Camaleon when at the peak of his powers in 2011. He's won the Phoenix Open and contended strongly in big events and on big courses such as Memorial and at Torrey Pines where he should have won.