The Grand Finale – Nail-bitter or Anticlimax?on December 5, 2010
With Lee Westwood five stokes clear going into the final round most golf fans believe that it is highly unlikely that any of the chasing pack is going to be able to overtake him. His two closest rivals, Ross Fisher and Tim Clark, and perhaps Miguel Jimenez, who is a half a dozen shots adrift, might believe that they have a chance, but they can be certain one thing; they are going to have to do something exceptional. The talk around the player’s lounge is that Westwood is “in the zone”, and the popular Englishman, who has gone out of his way to accommodate autograph hunters, is unlikely to falter during the home stretch. Westwood is simply too experienced, hitting the ball too well and his putting has been faultless. Is the world’s number one suddenly going to unravel? Very Unlikely.
The fact that the other players are going to have to come out with guns blazing will certainly make for an interesting final day, and the prospect of the players going for the pins in an effort to make up ground is really what it is about. Westwood described his strategy during the first three rounds as being “sensible – I played conservative, but attacking golf” – something of a contradiction perhaps, but we knew what he meant. Knowing when to attack and when to be a little more circumspect is what this golf course is all about.
Over the 30 years that this event has been played, we have seen overly-aggressive play result in disaster. The rough may not be nearly as penal as it has been in years past, but there are still some nasty places where an errant shot can render a ball unplayable. Ross Fisher found this out yesterday, when his tee shot drifted only slight right of the intended target on the par five 14th, he was forced to take a penalty drop. Also, the firm, slippery greens with their traditional ‘last day’ pin positions can wreak havoc with any plan to go at every flag – which is what the likes of Ernie Els, Anders Hansen and Padraig Harrington is going to have to do. This trio have found themselves seven shots of the pace, and they will probably adopt the ‘duck-or-no-dinner’ strategy.
Westwood, who reminded us that he knows how to play and win on the course (he won in a quality field in the Dimension Data Pro-Am here a decade ago), will also know that he cannot “nurse” his ball around and simply try and stay out of trouble. There are a few holes on this layout which could be termed classic “score-spreaders”, notably the par fives that can yield the occasional eagle but also the odd double-bogey.
Is the 30th Nedbank Golf Challenge a ‘done deal’ with the players behind Westwood all playing for second place? Not likely. Five shots is not nearly enough of a cushion, and Westwood is still going to have to produce the brand of golf he has served up during the first three rounds before he can pocket the handsome cheque for $1.25 million.
Of one thing we can be sure – the record numbers of spectators in Sun City are in for a treat.