Several others amongst the field of 12 are confidently written off. Rank outsider James Kingston is out of his depth, and Luke Donald’s moderate previous efforts around here don’t offer much hope on his first start since June. The admirable Miguel-Angel Jiminez has played terribly on previous visits, and is rarely seen at his best on very long golf courses. Similar comments apply to course debutant KJ Choi.
Last year’s runner-up Justin Rose has been a pale shadow of his 2007 self this season, never looking like winning and only rarely appearing on a leaderboard. Kenny Perry, twice unsuccessful already at Sun City, has achieved nothing of note in strokeplay since a golden mid-summer spell.
Whereas many of the others are coming off a break, we know Swedish pair Robert Karlsson and HENRIK STENSON are fit and in-form from their World Cup triumph last weekend. Karlsson would seem likely to contend as he has done in most weeks throughout 2008. However, he is at some disadvantage making his course debut, and has only rarely played top-class golf on this continent.
Stenson therefore would seem the likelier contender given his two previous high-class efforts on the course, finishing runner-up to Jim Furyk two years ago and 4th behind Immelman in 2007. My only concern is that his recent form is patchy to say the least, but equally Stenson is overdue another title and Sunday’s team success could be just the tonic he needs.
So by process of elimination, that leaves us with just the two South Africans, Immelman and Sabbatini. Masters champ Immelman’s -16 total here last year was the lowest winning score since 2002. He also won the annual pro-am at Sun City back in 2002, and clearly knows the place well, suggesting that he can emulate the multiple titles obtained here by those illustrious South African predecessors.
Besides that against the odds glory at Augusta, he’s been well below his best for most of the year, but there have been signs of encouragement in the autumn. His last two efforts in the Fedex Cup were more respectable, and Immelman also registered some excellent long game stats when grabbing 5th a fortnight ago in Japan.
Finally, the demands of this tough golf course may be just what Sabbatini needs to kick-start a faltering career. This season’s results represent a big drop from 2007 standards, though he did pick up a little during the Fall Series and has registered some decent long game stats when unfancied in recent tournaments.
Rory is very much a ‘horses for courses’ type, generally thriving on long courses with fast greens, but never a factor on short, positional layouts. Thankfully for him, Sun City is very much the former, and he must take heart from 5th place on last year’s course debut, especially considering he opened with a disastrous 76.
Good Luck!

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