In keeping with its 27 year history, firstly as the Sun City Million before Nedbank took over the sponsorship, the organisers have managed to attract a world-class field for this 12-runner affair. No wonder, given the substantial prize money guaranteed even for last place.
This is no relaxing, close season birdie-fest though. Played on the mammoth, 7,800 yard course at the Gary Player Country Club, Sun City can become quite a brutal test. Scoring can become tough when the greens dry out, and while one player usually registers a fairly low total, I doubt we’ll see more than three players shooting double digits under par.
The last nineteen winners were either very or fairly obvious pre-tournament picks. Course specialists Ernie Els, Nick Price and David Frost won three times each, confirming a strong advantage to home players well used to the tough kikuyu grass and slick greens. Els and Goosen are surprisingly missing from the line-up this time, and with James Kingston a rank outsider, home hopes would appear to lie with TREVOR IMMELMAN and RORY SABBATINI.
Twice former Sun City champion Sergio Garcia inevitably starts a very short-priced favourite at 11/4. There has been no better player in the world during Tiger Woods’ absence, and his stock rose to levels not seen since he first arrived on the scene when winning the HSBC Champions Trophy on his last start three weeks ago. With that play-off victory for his second win in three starts, Garcia may have finally nailed his ‘bottler’ reputation.
Its hard not to fancy him to challenge strongly in next year’s Majors. In fact, whilst we’re on the subject, this is a good time to be taking 16/1 about Garcia for next year’s British Open. As a guide he started at 10/1 this year and his reputation has since been enhanced. The price assumes Tiger Woods will automatically re-assume hot favourite status when he returns from injury, but that’s no certainty by any means, and in any case the Open is usually Tiger’s weakest Major as far as the betting is concerned. I also fancy Garcia for the US Open at Bethpage Black, but nobody is pricing that one up yet.
Despite all that long-term confidence though, I can’t possibly recommend a bet at less than 3/1 this week. Those kind of odds are reserved only for Tiger Woods, and Garcia is still a long way behind the great man. He is overwhelmingly favoured by conditions here, no doubt, but has played poorly on his last three cracks at this event. Like several others, Sergio could be forgiven if he’s used the last few weeks to relax at the end of the season rather than prepare thoroughly for this.
If I could be certain he was fully prepared, Lee Westwood would have been a selection on a course that is ideal for his long, straight driving. Westwood’s best events in an extremely consistent 2008 came on long, tough courses at Torrey Pines and Firestone, and he has plenty of top-class form at Sun City. However, Westwood is unlikely to have been very busy on the golfing front during November, as he’s been recuperating from a tonsillectomy. From the comments on his blog, Lee gives the impression that he’s looking forward to this South African trip as a holiday rather than the potential for winning another title.
Next page: More Nedbank Challenge betting tips
More betting guides:
– Australian PGA Championship betting guide