Out of the Rough: Nedbank Golf Challenge (2023)
As the DP World Tour season enters its final stretch, it makes a stop in Sun City for the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
This event was first played in 1981 although to the tune of an exclusive 12-man invitational. That changed ten years ago when it became an official co-sanctioned event between the Sunshine and DP World Tour and the event was expanded to a 30-man field.
In 2016, the field was increased to 72 golfers and serves as the penultimate stop on the DP World Tour Schedule.
This event returned a year ago but was absent from the DP World Tour schedule since 2019 due to COVID.
This week’s field consists of the top 60 players in the DP World Tour’s Race to Dubai Rankings as well as the winner of the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit along with a handful of tournament invites.
Many of the World’s best will be in attendance this week, including two time Nedbank Golf Challenge and Ryder Cup Champion Tommy Fleetwood.
Fleetwood has won the previous two installments of this event, winning in 2019 and a year ago in 2022.
Joining him are fellow Ryder Cup Champions in Justin Rose, Robert MacIntyre and Nicolai Hojgaard.
Two members of Team USA’s Ryder Cup squad too will be teeing it up in the likes of Max Homa and Justin Thomas.
Other notable names teeing it up this week include Ryan Fox, Adrian Meronk, Branden Grace, Aaron Rai, Jordan Smith, Rasmus Hojgaard and Vincent Norrman.
Although the field is headlined by some of the PGA Tour’s best, the DP World Tour regulars are looking to claim a spot in the top 50 of the DP World Tour’s Race to Dubai standings to play next week at the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates for the DP World Tour Championship.
The golfers currently in the 46-to-50 spots of the rankings are Nacho Elvira, Marcus Helligkilde, Dan Bradbury, Ockie Strydom and Jeff Winther.
The golfers who currently occupy spots 51-55 and hoping for big weeks to push them into next week’s field are Calum Hill, Hurly Long, Jens Dantorp, Richie Ramsay and Matt Wallace.
The Gary Player Country Club in Sun City, South Africa has been the host of this event since its inception in 1981.
It plays as a Par 72 at 7,819 yards.
This is obviously a Gary Player designed track that is a parkland course and is set in an extinct volcanic crater.
Although the course appears super long on the scorecard at 7,819 yards, this venue sits at altitude and the ball will travel roughly ten-percent further than it does at sea level. Therefore, the course does not play as long as it may suggest.
However, this course still plays long.
The fairways featured this week are fairly narrow and are guarded by thick Kikuyu rough.
With the length of this course, driving distance of course will be a key but missing the fairways will be penal with this Kikuyu rough as well.
This Kikuyu rough is notoriously tough to play from. If a golfer is to find themselves buried in the rough often, it is improbable that they will find enough greens in regulation to compete this week.
The greens here at the Gary Player Country Club are Bentgrass, small in size, shaped like clovers and are surrounded by a multitude of bunkers. They run at around 11 on the Simpmeter as well.
The Tour’s better putters will get a leg up this week, especially those who shine on the more difficult Bentgrass greens.
Around the green work will be important this week as well due to the odd shape of these greens along with having to play from the Kikuyu rough at some point across the four days of golf.
As history has shown, any hopeful winner too must attack the four lengthy par fives this course has to offer.
In all, this course is a spectacular piece of golf architecture that too offers a picturesque backdrop of the Pilanesberg Mountains.
We could not ask for a better projection for this week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge. As of the time of writing this, there is a zero-percent chance of precipitation for Thursday, Friday and Saturday and just a ten-percent chance on Sunday. Temperatures will begin at 87-degrees on Thursday before gradually increasing to 94-degrees come Sunday. Additionally, winds are set at just nine-or-ten miles-per-hour across all four days.
Strokes Gained: Off the Tee (SG: OTT) / Average Driving Distance
Greens in Regulation Percentage (GIR%)
Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)
Par Five Average Scoring
Strokes Gained: Around the Green (SG: ATG)
Sand Saves Percentage
Strokes Gained: Putting (SG: PUTT)
Adrian Meronk (+2200)
It’s hard to ignore the top end PGA Tour talent this event has drawn, namely Tommy Fleetwood. However, I can’t get myself to bet Fleetwood at +700, Max Homa at +800 or even Justin Thomas at +1400. Instead, I’ll pivot to arguably my favorite golfer on the DP World Tour in Adrian Meronk at +2200. The last time we saw Meronk, he posted an impressive 66 (-6) on the final day of the Andalucía Masters to claim victory. The knock to Meronk heading into that event was his third round yips, but he has seemed to have put them behind him as he also shot 66 on Saturday. Now, he comes into this event in great form and matches up ideally statistically. He’s first on the entire DP World Tour in SG: OTT, sixth in GIR%, ninth in par five average scoring, 13th in SG: APP, 39th in SG: PUTT, 45th in scrambling, 55th in average driving distance, 71st in sand saves percentage and 90th in SG: ATG. Meronk also won earlier this season at the DS Automobiles Italian Open and sits third in the Race to Dubai standings. I’m playing two units on him.
Nicolai Hojgaard (+3500)
I’m all over Hojgaard this week. I think this is the ideal course for him. He’s currently second on the DP World tour in SG: OTT, eighth in both average driving distance and par five average scoring, 11th in GIR%, 18th in SG: APP, 39th in sand saves percentage, 49th in SG: ATG, 81st in scrambling and 96th in SG: PUTT. He is a slightly below average putter on the DP World Tour but if we take a look at what he’s done on the PGA Tour, he’s 25th overall as he has gained 14.113 strokes on the greens over 34 rounds. We last saw Hojgaard on the DP World Tour back in September at the BMW PGA Championship where he placed T64th but in his two events prior to that, placed T5th at the Omega European Masters and third at the D+D Real Czech Masters. In his last outing on the PGA Tour he placed T31st at the ZOZO Championship. I’m playing a unit on him at +3500.
Matt Wallace (+4500)
This is probably my favorite play of the entire week. I love the value of Matt Wallace, especially as he tops my model overall this week. He comes into this week in great form, placing T9th at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in his last appearance on the DP World Tour and T6th at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship prior. He is currently third on the DP World Tour in GIR%, sixth in SG: ATG, 16th in SG: APP, 28th in average driving distance, 29th in both scrambling and par five average scoring, 36th in sand saves percentage, 39th in SG: OTT and 83rd in SG: PUTT. To sum that up for you, he’s above average in each of the nine statistical categories we took into consideration this week. Wallace is also 55th in the Race to Dubai standings and will need a massive week this week if he hopes to play next week in Dubai. I’m playing a unit on Wallace.
Romain Langasque (+6000)
Like Wallace, Langasque is currently above average in each of the nine statistical categories I took into consideration this week. He is currently fifth on Tour in sand saves percentage, tenth in par five average scoring, 15th in both average driving distance and scrambling, 20th in both SG: OTT and SG: ATG, 43rd in SG: PUTT, 55th in GIR% and 58th in SG: APP. A very nice resume for this course. Now, he is not in the best of form heading into this week after missing the cut at both the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters and the Andalucía Masters but did place T9th at the Open de Espana in mid-October. I’m playing a unit on him.
Antoine Rozner (+7500)
With this field being super top heavy, I didn’t want to get too long with my betting card so Rozner is officially my long shot of the week. He heads into this week in some decent form by going T27th at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, T35th at the Open de Espana and T10th at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. He is also tenth on Tour in GIR%, 29th in SG: APP, 34th in sand saves percentage, 42nd in par five average scoring, 43rd in average driving distance, 47th in SG: OTT, 48th in scrambling, 54th in SG: PUTT and 56th in SG: ATG. Like Wallace and Langasque above him, Rozner is above average in each of the nine statistical categories I took into consideration this week. I’m playing a unit on Rozner this week.