When Johnny Miller won the inaugural Million Dollar Challenge in 1981, it was a 12-player invitational stroke play event. It eventually evolved and became the Nedbank Golf Challenge. This week, for the first time, it’s part of the European Tour Final Series. The field is now up to 72 men and even though it’s lacking some of the top talent, there’s a great group assembled.
An impressive series of major winners and top talents have triumphed in this reduced field event. Even those who haven’t captured majors have gone extremely close. For example, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia are both two-time champions of the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
The Gary Player Country Club plays host to the event and it’ll be no easy task. The Par 72 measures almost 8,000 yards so a great long game is of the utmost importance. It only takes a brief look at the list of winners to realise that great long-iron players will go well here.
Once you understand that, it’s not hard to see how Henrik Stenson has excelled here. As a result, he’s the 9/2 favourite this week. It’s difficult to see how he won’t contend at this tournament in his current form. An elite ball-striker that rarely strays from the fairway, the Swede is basically custom built to play this course.
Seven more members of the European Ryder Cup team are chasing Stenson in the betting but they’re a good distance back. Ross Fisher, Alex Noren and all of South Africa’s best have also made the trip to Sun City. There are, however, just two men that I’ll be backing.
Li Haotong (100/1) played some incredible golf last week. The 21-year-old ranked 6th in FIR, 11th in GIR, 12th in Driving Distance and 11th in Putts Per GIR. It seems almost ridiculous that someone could play that well and not win the tournament. Olesen had to play his very best to pip Li to the post.
A superstar in the making, Li Haotong has every chance to triumph against the very best in the world when he’s at his best. Last week seemed to prove that Li is firing at close to that level. If he can replicate that form in Sun City this week then there’s every chance that he contends.
Jeung-hun Wang (150/1) has won twice on the European Tour in 2016. Both of those wins (Trophée Hassan II; AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open) came on courses measuring in excess of 7,400 yards. Only ten of the thirty-eight regular stroke play events this season have been played on courses of that length. Wang has only played in three of those events so his record is extremely impressive.
The T13 in Turkey last week was his first Top 20 on the European Tour since winning back-to-back events in May. Those two wins both came in Africa and if last week’s performance signified a return to top form for the 21-year-old then I wouldn’t be surprised to see Wang come out on top on Sunday.