Wild Coast Sun Challenge: What’s what

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The fourth event of the six-tournament Sun International Challenge Series – the Sun Wild Coast Sun Challenge – is going back to the Wild Coast Sun Country Club for the fourth time and tees off from Wednesday to Friday.

The prize fund for this year was increased to R800 000 from R750 000 last year.

Oliver Bekker returns to defend the title that was his third victory last season. He has been in Europe where he got a T18 on the Challenge Tour’s Swedish Challenge hosted by Robert Karlsson after he’d missed the cut at the Euram Bank Open at the end of July. At home, and where he has played only four events, Bekker has been solid. Apart from the Lombard Insurance Classic, a tournament he won last season and where he missed the cut this season, Bekker has a not finished outside the top 15 in any of the Sunshine Tour events this season.

The format:

54 holes of strokeplay. After 36 holes there will be a cut to the leading 40 professionals and ties.

The field:

120 professionals.

Defending Champion:

Oliver Bekker. 11-under-par 199.

The course:

PHOTOS: Sunshine Tour event still on after vandals chop up Wild Coast greens

The Wild Coast Sun Country Club offers a seemingly gentle golf course that was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. This course designed with the prevailing winds of the coast in mind. Even the slightest change in wind direction can completely transform a game, making the challenge of this golf course something quite exciting.

The backdrop of the Indian Ocean creates a tranquil and refreshing setting, although some of the holes look as though they could be perfectly placed within Scotland or Ireland. With plenty of interesting shots; one that needs to be played over a massive chasm next to a cascading waterfall, the Wild Coast Sun Country Club leaves little to be desired from a professional golfers’ point of view.

The Wild Coast Sun Championship Golf Course is laid out over a rugged terrain running along the Indian Ocean which creates a dramatic golfing experience. This exciting course is played over hills, ravines, rivers, dams, waterfalls, and has breath-taking views. The 18-hole golf course has wide fairways and huge greens providing a daunting challenge to both professionals and amateurs alike and attracts golfers at all levels.

The 5 329 metre course has Cynodin and Kikuyo grass type on the fairways and Cynodin on the tees.

Form player:

Toto Thimba showed a massive improvement in his form after missing the cut at the Sun City Challenge. His fortunes changed at the KCB Karen Masters where he finished tied 46th, then shared 40th at the Royal Swazi Spa Challenge early in the month. Thimba pressed even harder at the Sun Carnival City Challenge where he almost registered his first Sunshine Tour win, but JC Ritchie would have none of it as he claimed a one-shot victory over Thimba and Alex Haindl. The share of fifth at the Vodacom Origins of Golf Zebula last week confirmed that the changes he introduced to his game are paying dividends and that his first win on Tour is imminent.

Sentimental pick:

Neil Schietekat missed the cut once in his last five starts. The win at Sun City rejuvenated him and between then and now, he has missed only one cut and that was at the Royal Swazi Challenge. Before then, he finished eighth at the KCB Karen Masters and admitted that that Sun City win was all he needed to pick himself up and start playing again. Two weeks ago, he finished 11th in very tough weather conditions at Ebotse Links, and coming to Wild Coast where the wind is a permanent feature around the golf course, Schietekat cannot be underestimated.

The bolter:

Peter Moolman missed two cuts in his last five tournaments but he has some solid finished in the other three. Moolman did not make earnings at Sun City Challenge and Royal Swazi Spa Challenge but finished in a tie of third at KCB Karen Masters where he really looked like he would run away with victory. He then finished fourth at Sun Carnival City Challenge at Ebotse and tied 13th at the Vodacom Origins of Golf Zebula last week. He also did well at the Big Easy Challenge this season as he finished in the top five at BET 2 and BET 3. This shows that he has got what it takes to go all the way to claim his first win on Tour but must navigate the testing Wild Coast layout and still be wary of the strong challenge posed by any of the players in this week’s field.

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