Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace ... South Africa’s big three and the highest-ranked local players on the world golf rankings. But, are they also the favourites to end SA's nine-year trophy drought at the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City this year?
Trevor Immelman was the last South African to triumph at “Africa’s major”, in 2007, with Tim Clarke and Schwartzel finishing as runners-up in 2010 and 2012. But while SA’s so-called big guns - Oosthuizen, Schwartzel and Grace - have the games to win the Nedbank Golf Challenge this week, starting on Thursday, it is the rookies who probably have the form going into the tournament, the penultimate one ahead of the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai next week.
Dylan Frittelli, who finished tied second in Turkey on Sunday, is the leading South African in the Race to Dubai standings, occupying 18th position after a good 2017 season.
He’ll be full of confidence, and one of a number of dark horses, going into the tournament after finishing a stroke behind the winner in Turkey, Justin Rose. “I’m glad I got into contention today (Sunday) and seemed to play pretty well under pressure,” Frittelli told reporters in Antalya.
“I was really looking at the last three events to try and peek inside the top 30 in the rankings ... and now I’m looking at two more big events (Sun City and Dubai) that could push me into the top 10 hopefully. I’m hoping to play well next week in front of the home crowd.”
And while Haydn Porteous faded after a superb opening 64 at the Turkish Airlines Open, he’ll be happy with a tied 35th-place finish in what would have been a good tune-up ahead of his trip to Sun City this week.
He also finished tied sixth at the Made in Denmark tournament the week before his victory in the Czech Republic, while at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October he finished tied 15th.
The other two SA players on the European Tour who’ll be hoping for a good end to the year are Dean Burmester, who is 54th on the Race to Dubai standings, and Brandon Stone, who is 58th.
Burmester started the season strongly with a fourth place at the SA Open, a seventh at the Abu Dhabi Championship and a win at the Tshwane Open. Since then though, his best finish was at the Portugal Masters in September where he tied for seventh.
Stone has battled since winning the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2016. He finished fourth at the Joburg Open in February this year and will be desperate for a big pay day this week.