A preview and tips for this week's new-look Nedbank Challenge at Sun City in South Africa
By Dave Tindall Twitter: @DaveTindallgolf. Last Updated: 02/12/13 2:19pm
The approach shot to the ninth green
The Nedbank Challenge enters a new era this week as its traditional 12-man field is expanded to 30.
And, for the first occasion, this one-time exhibition event now carries full European Tour status, taking its place as the third tournament on The 2014 Race To Dubai following two previous events in South Africa.
The winner will bank US$1.25 million with 30th and last place being assured of US$100,000.
What does remain the same is the course. The 7,831-yard Gary Player Country Club in Sun City is well known to viewers and has staged every running of this event since Johnny Miller won the first one back in 1981.
Leading contenders (and Sky Bet odds)
Henrik Stenson (7/2): The hottest player in golf just happens to have a tremendous record in this event too. The Swede hasn't played here for four years but in his four visits between 2006 and 2009 he finished second, fourth, first and second. The win in 2008 was by a mighty nine shots. Tournament director Alastair Roper said: "When he won here in 2008 he thrilled the fans with a display of ball striking that was of the best ever seen in this tournament." Five years on and he's playing even better so, barring any wrist injury problems, the FedEx Cup and Race To Dubai champion is the man they all have to beat.
Charl Schwartzel (13/2): After a couple of finishes in the middle of the pack (fifth in 2006 and sixth in 2011), Schwartzel made his first big run at this title last year when runner-up to Martin Kaymer. "I'm doing a bit better every year here," said the South African, who had been just one back before bogeying 17. He goes into this year's event on a real high having just defended his Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in impressive fashion. Prior to that he'd finished fourth in the South African Open so he looks a big danger.
Justin Rose (15/2): Rose hasn't won since his breakthrough major victory in the US Open at Merion in June but, without being at his best, he showed up well in the closing events of the European Tour season, finishing fifth (China), third (Turkey) and 10th (Dubai). He was runner-up on his Nedbank debut in 2007 but since then he's finished near the back of what used to be a 12-man field - 9th in 2008, T9th in 2010 and 11th last year.
Martin Kaymer: Winner in 2012
Sergio Garcia (12/1): Sergio is a two-time winner of the Nedbank Challenge although you have to scan down to 2003 and 2001 to find his name on the trophy. This his ninth appearance in the event, but first since 2008, so he knows the course inside out. Sergio, who was fourth in the HSBC Champions in China last time after closing with a 63, has racked up no end of top 10s and 20s this year but remains winless.
Martin Kaymer (12/1): Fresh from holing his famous putt in the Ryder Cup a few months earlier, Kaymer took victory here 12 months ago when holding off Charl Schwartzel to win by two. It was just his second start in the event having finished eighth on debut in 2011. His current form - six straight top 25s with a best of seventh - is solid rather than spectacular but six players have successfully defended the title here which could bode well even though it will be harder given the increase in field size.
Luke Donald (14/1): Disappointing for most of the season, Donald has come back to life in recent weeks with a good fifth place in the DP World Tour Championship and a thumping six-shot victory in the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan (his first win since that event 12 months earlier). This will be his sixth start in the Nedbank and he'll be hoping to improve a modest record which has seen him finish in the bottom half of the field in his last three visits: 5-6-11-8-7
Ernie Els (18/1): The Big Easy has won more prize money here than any player in the tournament's history and his 17 previous starts include three wins (1999, 2000, 2003) and four second places. It hasn't been a vintage year for the South African but he did win the BMW International Open in Germany back in June while his last three finishes include a third in the Macau Open and an 11th in the HSBC Champions at Sheshan on his most recent appearance.
FORM at SUN CITY
Last 10 years
Player: '03 / '04 / '05 / '06 / '07 / '08 / '09 / '10 / '11 / '12
Luke Donald: - / - / 5 / - / T6 / 11 / 8 / - / 7 / -
Ernie Els: 17 / T2 / 9 / 4 / 3 / - / - / T5 / - / -
Sergio Garcia: Won / 12 / 11 / T7 / - / T5 / - / - / - / -
Martin Kaymer: - / - / - / - / - / - / - / - / 8 / Won
Francesco Molinari: - / - / - / - / - / - / - / - / 11 / T7
Louis Oosthuizen: - / - / - / - / - / - / - / 12 / - / 4
Justin Rose: - / - / - / - / 2 / 9 / - / T9 / - / 11
Charl Schwartzel: - / - / - / 5 / 10 / - / - / - / 6 / 2
Henrik Stenson: - / - / - / 2 / 4 / Won / 2 / - / - / -
Richard Sterne: - / - / - / - / - / - / 11 / - / - / -
No. of Competitors: 18 / 12 / 12 / 12 / 12 / 12 / 12 / 12 / 12 / 12
Note: Ernie Els has won this tournament three times (1999-2000-2002), while Sergio Garcia was champion in 2001.
The following are making their debuts in this event: Brendon de Jonge, Jamie Donaldson, Victor Dubuisson, Gonzalo F'dez-Castano, Darren Fichardt, Branden Grace, Thongchai Jaidee, Joost Luiten, David Lynn, Morten Orum Madsen, Matteo Manassero, Ryan Moore, DA Points, Peter Senior, Kevin Streelman, Peter Uihlein, Dawie Van Der Walt, Thaworn Wiratchant, Gary Woodland.
Thomas Bjorn is making his first Sun City appearance since 2001. His highest finish in the event is tied-3rd in 2000.
Last 10 Weeks
Player: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10
Thomas Bjorn: - / - / 57 / - / 5 / 39 / 18 / 21 /  / -
Brendon de Jonge: - / - / - / [MC] /  / - /  /  /  / 16
Luke Donald: - / - / - / - / 31 / 31 / - / 5 / [Won] / -
Jamie Donaldson: 26 / - / 6 / - / 34 / 8 / 2 / 8 / - / -
Victor Dubuisson: - / - / 17 / - / 44 / - / Won / 3 /  / -
Ernie Els: 17 / - / - /  /  / 11 / - / - / - / -
Gonzalo F'dez-Castano: - / - / 57 / - / Won / 39 / - / 37 /  / -
Darren Fichardt: MC / - / - / - / 24 / 61 / 15 / 21 / 37 / MC
Sergio Garcia: - / - / - / - /  / 4 / - / - / - / -
Branden Grace: 59 / - / - / 43 / 61 / 39 / 29 / 52 /  / -
Thongchai Jaidee: MC / - / MC /  / 2 / 46 / 29 / 47 / - / 
Martin Kaymer: 7 / - / 13 / - / 13 / 8 / 25 / 19 / - / -
Joost Luiten: 24 / - / 51 / - / Ret / - / 18 / 4 / - / -
David Lynn: MC / - / Won / - /  / 39 / 36 / 42 / - / -
Morten Orum Madsen: 12 / - / 51 / - / - / - / 63 / - / Won / 16
Matteo Manassero: - / - / MC / - / - / 21 / 44 / 21 /  / -
Francesco Molinari: - / - / 17 / - / 2 / 21 / 25 / 13 /  / -
Ryan Moore: - / - / - /  / [Won] / 50 / - /  / - / -
Louis Oosthuizen: MC / - / - / - / 59 / 15 / 67 / 32 / - / -
DA Points: - / - / - / - /  / 68 / - / - / - / -
Justin Rose: - / - / - / - / - / 5 / 3 / 10 / - / -
Charl Schwartzel: 7 / - / [Won] / - / - / - / 29 / - / 4 / Won
Peter Senior: - / - / - / - / - / - /  /  / - / [MC]
Henrik Stenson: - / - / - / - / 34 / 31 / 7 / Won / - / -
Richard Sterne: 50 / - / - / - / 31 / 39 / 36 / 14 / - / MC
Kevin Streelman: - / - / - / - /  / 34 / - / - /  / [Wd]
Peter Uihlein: 2 /  / - / - / 5 / 55 / 57 / 51 / - / -
Dawie Van Der Walt: [MC] / - / MC / MC / - / [MC] /  / - / MC / MC
Thaworn Wiratchant: [MC] /  / [MC] /  / [MC] /  /  /  / - / 
Gary Woodland: - / - / [MC] / - /  / - / - / - / - / -
Key to Form Guide: 52 - European Tour;  - Other events
LOWEST ROUNDS at SUN CITY
61: Padraig Harrington (2001) *
62: Lee Westwood (2011)
63: Sergio Garcia (2001) *
63: Ernie Els (2002)
63: Henrik Stenson (2008)
63: Nick Watney (2009)
64: Eight Times
* - Preferred Lies
Sun City: Par 72; 7,831 yards
Winning Totals (Last Three Years):
2012 - 280 (Martin Kaymer)
2011 - 273 (Lee Westwood)
2010 - 271 (Lee Westwood)
Charl Schwartzel appears to love this time of year and, after last week's convincing win in the Alfred Dunhill Championship he's worth backing for a quick follow-up here.
Twelve months ago he won the Thailand Golf Championship and Alfred Dunhill by 11 and 12 stroke margins in back-to-back weeks so once he gets hot he's hard to stop.
"I had that hiccup in the first round but after that it was pretty much flawless golf with no bogeys from there on in," said Schwartzel after last week's victory. "If you're going to play 60-odd holes or whatever without a bogey then you'd hope you would win."
After his near-miss at this venue last year, I'll back him to go one better this time.
Charl Schwartzel: Can win again
Henrik Stenson must be a massive threat, especially on a course where he once blitzed the field, so it would be no surprise if he and Schwartzel are fighting it out at the finish.
The Swede arrived in Sun City at the weekend and declared his wrist fine so there seems no reason why he can't continue the devastating form he's shown since the summer.
Sky Bet go 15/8 that either wins but personal preference is for Schwartzel so weight the stakes in favour of the South African.
6pts win Charl Schwartzel at 13/2
4pts win Henrik Stenson at 7/2