LIV Golf cash machine Branden Grace back to legacy-hunting at Nedbank Golf Challenge

a golfer on his follow through

The 34-year-old Grace was the top SA player on the LIV Golf circuit and will head to the Nedbank Golf Challenge as one of the local favourites. Picture: Tannen Maury/EPA

Published Nov 8, 2022


Centurion - Led by Branden Grace and Christiaan Bezuidenhout, South Africa will be hoping for a local champion again when the Nedbank Golf Challenge (NGC) tees off at Gary Player Country Club at Sun City on Thursday.

It will be the 40th staging of the competition, after being cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid-19.

Grace was the last South African to lift the coveted NGC trophy in 2017, with a pair of Englishmen (Lee Westwood in 2018 and Tommy Fleetwood in 2019) taking top honours since then.

It will also be the first time Grace returns to play an event co-sanctioned with the Sunshine Tour and DP World Tour (DPWT) since he joined the Saudi-funded LIV Golf series.

The 34-year-old Grace was the top SA player on the LIV Golf circuit as he earned a whopping R304 028 130 from the six events he completed - he had to withdraw from the Bangkok event through injury.

Grace was second on the overall season earnings, with American Dustin Johnson topping the charts with an incredible R651 343 627.

However, judging his form as he returns to full-field 72-hole events may be difficult to gauge. Still, it would take a brave man to bet against Grace who won four-times in his breakthrough season on the DPWT in 2012. He has since brought his tally of DPWT victories to nine (including a win in the SA Open in 2020) and has six top-10s in majors to his name for good measure.

Bezuidenhout, meanwhile, continued to make his way on the US PGA Tour in the 2021/2022 season as he ended 51st on the FedExCup standings.

Incidentally, that worked out to earnings of $2.2m (R39m) on the premier golf tour in the world. Having played four events on the new US PGA Tour season, the 28-year-old has a best finish of 20th but already, and impressively, ranks first in strokes gained around the green. His short game will be particularly important at the testing Gary Player CC, and could make him one of the favourites this week.

In fact, Bezuidenhout also won the SA Open on the same course when it was held there in November 2020.

Another SA player that could contend strongly is George Coetzee. The two-time Sunshine Tour Order of Merit winner comes into the NGC off the back of a three-stroke victory in the Sunshine Tour’s PGA Championship at St Francis Links last week.

“The confidence I take from beating the field here is a big boost and I’m generally pretty happy with the swing that has shown up for the last couple of weeks,” Coetzee said.

The other SA players that could be in the mix are Thriston Lawrence, Oliver Bekker, Zander Lombard, Justin Walters, Shaun Norris, JC Ritchie and Richard Sterne.

In total, 66 players will compete for the $1m (R17.8m) first prize this week in a field that includes defending champion Fleetwood.

Tickets for the Nedbank Golf Challenge are available, starting at R40 for the Pro-Ams and R250 for tournament rounds, while hospitality packages for the Circa Champions Club, Circa Pavilion or Circa 18th Green can be also be purchased. The 2019 edition of the NGC delivered record attendance figures and sold-out hospitality.


IOL Sport