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Monday, 21 January, 2019

Home favourite can put up strong challenge

Charl Schwartzel's power should help him this week
1 of 1

Palmer’s top tip
Charl Schwartzel 22-1
Henrik Stenson and Danny Willett have been left to duel for the honour of Race to Dubai champion, with an apathetic Rory McIlroy missing a second successive Final Series event. The form-dip of Willett means Stenson can probably fall over the line in front without needing any fireworks over the next fortnight.

Charl Schwartzel does not care about any of that and the South African is in his homeland this week with the sole intention of claiming a long overdue maiden Nedbank title.

The Joburg man will be annoyed that he has reached the age of 32 without winning ‘Africa’s Major’ and he is in good enough form to set the record straight on Sunday.

Schwartzel made his Nedbank debut in 2006, finishing fifth, and he has played well without lifting the silverware in more recent renewals, with sixth place in 2011, the runner-up spot in 2012 and sixth again in 2013.

The Gary Player Country Club demands long, straight hitting and appears to suit the game of Schwartzel, so it is an anomaly that Nedbank glory has eluded the former Masters champion.

Schwartzel has won all the other European Tour events in South Africa – the Dunhill Championship was his first, then the Africa Open, Joburg Open and Tshwane Open followed. Eight of his 11 European Tour triumphs have come in the Rainbow Nation.

The ball-striking magnificence Schwartzel showcased in the final two events of the FedEx Cup playoffs indicated that he has got firmly to grips with the PXG clubs he switched to in Open week.

He finished fourth in the BMW Championship, tenth in the Tour Championship, loves his new weapons and looks a surefire Nedbank contender given a half-decent week of putting.

Next best
Ross Fisher 20-1
With so much prize money on offer from the Race to Dubai Bonus Pool for the top ten in the final standings, and after a rapid ascent up the world rankings in the last seven weeks, Ross Fisher has been understandably reluctant to tinker with his equipment in the wake of Nike quitting golf.

Fisher, though, took the plunge in the HSBC last time out, putting the TaylorMade M1 driver in his bag, and was pleased with the results. McIlroy did the same in China and TaylorMade drivers are the tool which all of the world’s top three are using.

Fisher has kept the rest of his bag the same and can be fancied to finish the season strongly. Runner-up finishes in the European Open and Dunhill Links were swiftly followed by sixth place in the HSBC and the Ascot man lies 16th in the RTD standings.

Key stats

Three of the last six Nedbanks have been won by an Englishman.

The last three winners all ranked first or second for greens in regulation.

Fisher is one of few in the Nedbank field with a useful bank of course experience.

He tied third on his debut in 2009, missing out on the playoff by a shot, then three subsequent visits have yielded finishes of fifth, second and 15th. He tweeted three weeks ago about how much he loves the track.

Other selections
George Coetzee 66-1
The bounce is back in the step of George Coetzee, who endured months of rehab and poor form after breaking his ankle surfing at the end of last year.

Confidence has grown in his last three tournaments and he announced that he was “swinging a thousand times better than I ever have” before finishing fifth in the Turkish Airlines Open last week.
Coetzee appears to have got his A-game back at the perfect time to be a factor on home turf. He was 16th in his only previous Nedbank spin (2014), but possesses the power and comfort in the conditions to be a title contender in front of family and friends this week.

Two of Coetzee’s three European Tour victories have come in South Africa. He got a useful chipping lesson from compatriot Richard Sterne in Turkey and was deadly on and around the greens.

Other notables
Stenson, the 2008 champion, is obviously a worthy favourite but his price lacks juice.

Chris Wood is a tempting option, while Thomas Pieters and Brandon Stone are dangerous debutants.

Paddy Power are paying to six places.

Staking plan
C Schwartzel
3pts each-way 22-1 general
R Fisher
2pts each-way 20-1 general
G Coetzee
1pt each-way 66-1 Paddy Power 

The ball-striking magnificence Schwartzel showcased in the final two events of the FedEx Cup playoffs indicated that he has got firmly to grips with the PXG clubs he switched to in Open week
E.W. Terms
Sky bet