Grace can fire home hopes in Sun City


There hasn’t been a home winner of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City since Trevor Immelman 10 years ago, but Branden Grace might be the man to change all that this week.

Grace made history this summer in the Open Championship when he became the first man to shoot 62 in one of golf’s Major events, firing eight birdies around Birkdale as he did.

That was en route to finishing tied-sixth, continuing a strong level of form in the Majors from the South African. Since the 2015 Masters, Grace has posted five top-10 finishes in 11 Major championship outings. He is cut from the finest cloth.

At 29, Grace is arguably heading into the peak years of his career and he’ll be assured of every ounce of home support going at the Nedbank, where he is a 16/1 chance to win the event and a solid bet at 6/4 to finish in the top 10.

The Gary Player Country Club, host to this event, calls for a genuine ball striker and Grace, like so many of his countrymen, fits into that category nicely. He has placed in the previous two renewals of this event for good measure.

His 62 at The Open appeared to have a detrimental effect on Grace as his form suffered through late summer but he arrives in his homeland on the back of top-20 finishes at the CJ Cup and the HSBC Champions in Shanghai.

Having sat out last week in Turkey, he’ll be fresh for this and the seven-time European Tour winner is just the sort to give the home fans plenty to cheer about.

The rest of the field will be glad to see the name of Justin Rose missing from the entry list this week, the Englishman having impressively banked wins in China and Turkey.

That has heaped the pressure on Race To Dubai leader Tommy Fleetwood, the gap in that season long marathon now an ever-diminishing one with just two events to go. Fleetwood, 19/1 in Sun City, should also be suited by the course and it will be interesting to see if he responds to the pressure applied by the now absent Rose.

Shane Lowry, 22/1 to win the Nedbank, is worthy of consideration too heading to South Africa.

The Irishman went into the final round in Turkey as joint leader but was forced to endure a day where the putter was ice cold.

Should he give himself a similar level of opportunity, Lowry is more than capable of getting into the mix once again.

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