The Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player is the second of three consecutive Rolex Series events which concludes with the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
Despite being the last regular season Rolex event, the field in South Africa is not exactly top heavy with stars, as Rory McIlroy (6) and Sergio Garcia (27) are the only players in the field with a ranking inside the world top 30. However, the field in Sun City does include a solid representation of players ranked in the middle tiers with 12 players who are ranked between Nos. 35 and 80, headlined by four South African stars in Louis Oosthuizen (39), Branden Grace (48), Charl Schwartzel (74), and Dylan Frittelli (80).
Last week’s runner up in Turkey, Haotong Li, will tee it up as well, alongside familiar names such as Matthew Fitzpatrick, Andy Sullivan, Shubhankar Sharma, and Lee Westwood.
Tournament: Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player
Dates: Nov. 8-11, 2018
Where: Sun City, South Africa
Course: Gary Player Country Club
Distance: Par 72, 7831 yards
Architect: Gary Player
Format: 128 players, 72 holes, 36-hole cut, stroke play
Winning Share: $1,250,000
OWGR Points: 34
Defending Champion: Branden Grace
Marquee Players: Grace, Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen, Branden Grace, Charl Schwartzel, Dylan Frittelli, Haotong Li, Andy Sullivan, Shubhankar Sharma, Lee Westwood, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Matt Wallace, Shane Lowry, Chris Wood, Martin Kaymer, Padraig Harrington, Thomas Bjorn
THE GOLF COURSE
Widely considered to be one of the best golf courses in South Africa, and one of the world’s top 100, the Gary Player Country Club is the third longest track in European Tour history, stretching a massive 7,831 yards and has been the home of the Nedbank Golf Challenge since 1981.
The course, which debuted in 1979, is known for its prodigious length and dramatic backdrops of the Pilanesberg Mountains.
Player has designed almost 400 championship courses around the world, but this is the only course that officially carries his name.
The club also has a Gary Player Spa, restaurant and pro shop. The course is one of two within the Sun City Resort, the other being the Lost City Golf Course, with its famous crocodile hole with the green in the shape of the African continent, which was also designed by Gary Player but in a desert African style.
TV & ONLINE COVERAGE
Debuting in December 1981 as a five-player event titled the Million Dollar Challenge, Johnny Miller took home the inaugural title, edging Seve Ballesteros in a playoff. Miller took home a first-place check of $500,000, a massive payout at the time.
The following season, a field of 10 stars teed it up with Raymond Floyd beating Craig Stadler in a playoff to secure a payday of $300,000. It remained a limited invitational-only field up until 2016 when it expanded from 30 players to 72.
The 2016 event was part of the European Tour Final Series, while in 2017 the event was part of the new Rolex Series. Since 2016, the field of 72 consists of the top 64 available players from the current year Race to Dubai standings, the defending champion, the winner of the Sunshine Tour order of merit from previous year, and tournament invitations.
2017: Branden Grace (-11)
2016: Alexander Noren (-14)
2015: Marc Leishman (−19)
2014: Danny Willett (−18)
2013: Thomas Bjorn (−20)
2012: Martin Kaymer (−8)
3 – David Frost (1989, 1990, 1992)
3 – Nick Price (1993, 1997, 1998)
3 – Ernie Els (1999, 2000, 2002)
-25, 263 – Ernie Els (1999)
Branden Grace fired a final-round 6-under 66, overcoming a three-shot deficit, to capture the 2017 Nedbank Golf Challenge in his native South Africa.
The 29-year old hit 18 of 18 greens en route to a bogey-free final round which included six birdies – none bigger than a 40-foot tournament-clincher on the par-3 16th.
Tied with paying partners Scott Jamieson and Victor Dubuisson at 10 under, Grace rolled in a long bomb bullet for a birdie to go one-up, and secure his eighth career European Tour title.
Third-round leader Jamieson closed with a 2-under 70 to post a 10 under final score. The 33-year old Scot finished solo second.
2017 NEDBANK GOLF CHALLENGE: FINAL TOP 5
1. Branden Grace -11
2. Scott Jamieson -10
3. Victor Dubuisson -9
4. Haotong Li -8
5. Martin Kaymer -6
FULL FIELD: WORLD RANK & ODDS
Nedbank Golf Challenge | Gary Player CC | Sun City, South Africa | Nov. 8-11, 2018
Credits: Getty Images, PGA Tour Media