Picking the Winner – A Difficult Taskon November 26, 2010
As the Nedbank Golf Challenge draws closer, many golf fans have been making their predictions, but this year choosing the winner is perhaps more difficult than usual.
The bookmakers at Sun City have not yet priced up the odds for the 12 players, but it is reasonable to assume that Lee Westwood, still occupying the number one position in the World Rankings, will be installed as the favourite. Whether the Englishmen can retain the form that saw him overtake Tiger Woods as the world’s best golfer, on a course he hasn’t played for some time, is the question every punter will be asking.
The South African challenge is a strong one, and a convincing case can be made for any one of Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Louis Oosthuizen or Tim Clark to life the crystal trophy. The course specialist among this quartet is undoubtedly Els, but despite his triumphs earlier in the season, he would seem to have gone off the boil. The same could be said for Goosen, who hasn’t managed to produce his best performances since injuring his toe in a freak accident earlier this year. Many would maintain that the Gary Player Country Club’s layout is too long for Clark, and Oosthuizen, who recently suffered a sprained ankle during a hunting trip, a injury which saw him struggle in the events leading up to the Race to Dubai, is also the “rookie”, and history suggests that it is unlikely that a first-timer can win the Nedbank Golf Challenge. Still, with the thousands of partisan fans at Sun City pulling for the local heroes, any one of them could emerge victorious.
It would perhaps be wise to reserve final selections until after the Dubai World Championship, where nine of the 12 players are competing, but it must be pointed out that this is a very different golf course, and even the final standings here could further confuse the issue.
Padraig Harrington is certainly due for a return to form, and the way Miguel Angel Jimenez has played this year, the 46-year-old cannot be ignored. Of the players playing in Dubai, this leaves Eduardo Molinari and Ross Fisher, both of whom have the games to do well in Sun City. Fisher is one of the most accurate drivers of the ball, a handy attribute in Sun City, and although first-timer Molinari will have to learn quickly on a course that gives up its secrets only grudgingly, his form throughout the season has been encouraging, and it is worth remembering that only a fortnight ago he finished in fourth place when he played in the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan.
This leaves Justin Rose, who had every chance of winning here in 2007 when he finished second to Trevor Immelman, and Anders Hansen, who has also begun to reproduce the sort of golf that secured him the Order of Merit title on the Sunshine Tour a year ago. Should Hansen play as well as he did in the Barclays Singapore Open two weeks ago, when he finished as runner-up to Adam Scott, he cannot be written off.
Finally, the defending champion Robert Allenby is unlikely to give up his title easily, and the Australian has also enjoyed a season that could suggest that he will again prevail. This year those spectators that enjoy a flutter on the result will also be able to wager on the eight senior players that will be contesting the Nedbank Senior Golf Challenge, and predicting a winner among these is just as difficult.
Whether placing sizeable bets on the outcome or merely wagering a drink at your local 19th hole, there is only one certainty – the 30th Nedbank Golf Challenge is going to supply action aplenty, and it is not be missed.