Rose among the men to beat

If current form counts for anything, Justin Rose and Louis Oosthuizen could be the men to beat this week at Sun City.

If current form counts for anything, Johannesburg-born Englishman Justin Rose and South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen could so easily be the men to beat at this week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City.

Rose, who this week moved up to World number four and will be the highest ranked golfer in the field of 12 teeing off at the highly-regarded Gary Player Country Club on Sunday, is currently top of the latest Golf365 poll asks it’s reader who they see as Europe’s next major winner – and not without good reason.

In late October, Rose beat the likes of Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood and a dozen or so other world class hot-shots to win the first Turkish Airlines World Golf Final and last week he closed with a brilliant 62 at the European Tour’s season-closing DP World Tour Championship where he almost certainly would have won the title if high-flying Rory McIlroy, the World number one, hadn’t chased him home and edged past him on the 17th during the 23-year-old Northern Irishman’s spectacular, five-birdie run in as many holes to the 18th.

Oosthuizen, the Open Championship winner at St Andrews in 2010, hasn’t been quite as spectacular, but he has certainly made up for it in sheer consistency.

The big-hitting Western Cape farmer’s son has been in strong contention in each of his last three starts, finishing in joint 6th place with Lee Westwood at the WGC-HSBC Champions won by Ian Poulter, losing a play-off to Italian teen-sensation Matteo Manassero at the Barclays Singapore Open and coming 5th at last week’s European Tour-closing DP World Tour Championship in Dubai which enabled him to finish in third place behind McIlroy and Rose in the year-long Race to Dubai points battle.

Westwood was only 12th in Dubai on Sunday, but his is another whose name has featured brightly on some recent leaderboards and he is, after all, the defending Nedbank Golf Challenge champion.

In other words he has a good knowledge and feel for a Gary Player course in which most of it’s teeth are in its thick Kikuyu rough, one or two strategic ponds, notably at the 9th, and in its fast, undulating greens with their clover leaf bunkers that can make for some nasty pin settings.

Westwood certainly has the accuracy, off both the tee and when firing at the greens, to win.

We saw at Sun City that last year.

But for some strange reason he simply hasn’t been able to close the deal this year and unless he has been able to correct this problem before the weekend, he’s not likely to defend his title successfully.

Sweden’s Peter Hanson is another of the 2012 European Ryder Cup brigade who has a good run lately and in fact he looked as if he was going to offer a stern Race to Dubai Challenge after he won the BMW Masters in China in late October.

He didn’t pursue the opportunity, however, deciding instead to take a break with his family and only return to the tour in Dubai, by which time McIlroy had already wrapped up the title and Hanson himself had lost some of his edge.

He never really offered a challenge at Jumeirah and finished in joint 16 place.

I wouldn’t write him off altogether. however, especially if he has managed to get back into the swing of things by the time he tees off on Thursday.

Of the others in the 12-man field including Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts, the games consistently longest hitter off the tee this year, American Bill Haas, last year’s FedEx Cup champion.

Germany’s Martin Kaymer, the 2010 US PGA Champion, veteran Scot Paul Lawrie, who has been having his best season since winning the Open Championship in 1999, Italian number one Francesco Molinari, US-bred Swede Carl Pettersson, South Africa’s 2010 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and his less famous fellow countryman Garth Mulroy, Schwartzel might be the next most dangerous man in the field behind Rose and Oosthuizen.

By his own high standards, Schwartzel has had a pretty ordinary season, but he might be coming right at just the right moment heading into a Sun City tee-off on Thursday where he can expect strong support from the always large and enthusiastic crowds

We got that impression at Dubai last week when we saw flashes of his old green-jacket-winning brilliance in last week’s battle of Dubai where he shot a pair of 68s and two 67s to finish ahead of Oosthuizen in joint third place with Luke Donald behind McIlroy and Rose.


The full invitational field this week is:

Lee Westwood (England)
Nicolas Colsaerts (Belgium)
Bill Haas (United States)
Peter Hanson (Sweden)
Martin Kaymer (Germany)
Paul Lawrie (Scotland)
Francesco Molinari (Italy)
Garth Mulroy (South Africa)
Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa)
Carl Pettersson (Sweden)
Justin Rose (England)
Charl Schwartzel (South Africa)