The Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City, South Africa, is the penultimate tournament on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai. This year, golfers celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Gary Player Country Club course. Here are six players to watch, starting Thursday.
Stenson, who has been a contender at the Nedbank several times, was runner-up three times, including 2015, 2009 and 2006. In 2008, because of his masterful 3-wood play, he dominated the field with a nine-shot win, 21 under par. Stenson’s score was second only to Nick Price’s 12-stroke win in 1993 as the biggest margin of victory at Nedbank.
While he has struggled for much of this year, he has shown how well he can navigate Nedbank’s tricky winds and sticky grass. With a recent swap of his old 3-wood in September, he might have a better chance to work the narrow fairways with confidence.
Fleetwood had an outstanding year in 2017, finishing with a top-10 win at Nedbank that won him the Race to Dubai and crowned him Europe’s No. 1 golfer. The next year, Fleetwood made a splashy debut at the Ryder Cup, when he and Francesco Molinari became the first European pair to win all four of their matches.
He has had continued success this year, recording five top-10 and eight top-20 finishes on the European Tour, including second place at the Open Championship — his second runner-up finish in a major after the 2018 United States Open. This is Fleetwood’s second time at Nedbank. Currently, he is seventh in the Race to Dubai.
The defending champion, Westwood, of England, is one of a handful of players who have won the tournament three times. Last year, Westwood beat Sergio García of Spain by three strokes.
On his final day, Westwood was three shots behind the leader, García, but an eagle on the second hole put him ahead. Westwood birdied five of his last eight holes to get to 15 under to win with a 64.
“I’m a bit emotional, to be honest,” he said at the time. “You’re never sure whether you’re going to be able to do it again.”
This year, he will be looking to be the first to win the tournament four times.
Oosthuizen, of South Africa, is playing with a home-turf advantage, and fought hard last year in the three-way fight with García and Westwood. Oosthuizen hit good iron shots, but had trouble making putts. “I’m proud of the way I handled it,” he said afterward. “I played well today. There’s not much I could have done more. The big thing today for me was committing to the shot and taking it on.”
He is coming in strong after the WGC-HSBC Champions this month, where his solid iron play and feel on the greens won him third place. While his driving has been spotty, the rest of his game looks good. “Can’t complain,” he said.
García has won the Nedbank twice, in 2001 and 2003. Since then, he has finished second twice, tying with Jamie Donaldson of Wales at two strokes behind Thomas Bjorn of Denmark in 2013, and missing a victory last year by three strokes to Westwood.
García came to the Nedbank last year with confidence and momentum coming off the Ryder Cup and a win in Spain.
That was not enough, García said. “I didn’t have my A game,” he said. “I fought hard and stayed patient. Things didn’t really happen too much to me. But you know, over all, I still fought hard.”
This year, García could easily contend if he can manage the swirling winds, commit to his shots and remain patient.
Last year at the Nedbank, Lowry underwhelmed. But he is a different player this year after winning the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and the British Open, and finishing eighth at the P.G.A. Championship. The string of successes has increased his confidence because of a new “no worries” philosophical outlook.
“There is more to life than golf,” he told The New York Times last month. “Maybe a few years ago, all I had was golf. But now I have a wife and a baby, and they mean everything to me. Family comes first at the end of the day.”
Since his British Open win, he has been battling it out for points and currently ranks third in the Race to Dubai. Winning that and becoming Europe’s No. 1 golfer would be “icing on the cake,” Lowry said.
“I’m going to give it everything I can,” he said. “I’ll go out and give it my best, and see where it leaves me.”