Young Brandon Stone has added more than 1.7 million euro to his retirement fund this year, so it can’t have been a bad 2018 at all. Even though the 25-year-old has dropped back out of the top-100 in the world rankings, he has nevertheless produced some spectacular highlights – shooting 60 in the final round to win the Scottish Open in July and making his presence felt for the first time at the Majors as he tied for 12th at the U.S. PGA Championship at Bellerive.
Nineteenth place in the European Tour order or merit also suggests a pretty consistent year, so Stone will come to Sun City believing he can win. The 2016 SA Open champion has produced special golf at home before, and the Sun City crowd could just inspire him to his best once more.
The Gary Player Country Club course will obviously hold fond memories for Grace who returns to Sun City for the fifth time but is the defending champion on this occasion. Even though he has not entered the winner’s circle again since his one-stroke victory over Scott Jamieson at Sun City, it’s been a respectable year for Grace, especially considering he became a father for the first time, in April.
Up till then he had been a picture of consistency, not finishing lower than in a tie for 37th place, but his form has been a little up-and-down since then, although he still managed to finish 77th on the U.S. PGA Tour order of merit and is currently 37th in the Race to Dubai.
And Grace has shown he has the game to conquer the Gary Player Country Club – apart from his 2017 triumph on 11-under-par, he finished in a tie for third in 2016 and tied-fourth in 2015.
The 28-year-old Frittelli is South Africa’s fifth-highest ranked golfer with solid performances on the European, U.S. PGA Tour and the Web.com Tour all being contributors to his current ranking of 80th.
Frittelli has the habit of getting things done when he is in contention and his tie for 31st in the U.S. PGA Championship after missing the cut in all three previous Majors this year will have provided a timely boost to his confidence.
He also earned his full U.S. PGA Tour card by finishing 18th in the Web.com Tour order of merit and Frittelli has the talent to tee it up with the world’s elite. He will be well worth watching as he quietly goes about his business, bringing an innovative approach to his golf to complement his natural ability.
South Africa’s highest-ranked golfer (39th) was able to use the Majors to keep himself high up in the rankings as he finished tied-12th at the Masters, tied-16th in the U.S. Open and tied-28th at the Open, before having to withdraw from the PGA Championship with a back injury.
With the 2010 Open Championship title to his name and runner-up finishes in all the other Majors, as well as 13 tournament wins around the world, Oosthuizen is not scared of the big occasion and finished fourth at Sun City in 2012, since when he has produced three more top-10 finishes.
Oosthuizen will be able to use his stellar iron-play to negotiate his way around the Gary Player Country Club course, where accurate approaches are extremely valuable.
Charl Schwartzel has only had four top-10 finishes this year, but one of them was a second-place finish in the Players’ Championship, the unofficial fifth major. A prolific performer in co-sanctioned events, his last win on South African soil came in 2016 at the Tshwane Open.
Playing on both sides of the Atlantic, he was 72nd on the U.S. PGA Tour order of merit and is 96th in the Race to Dubai, so he is still earning plenty of money week in, week out.
Schwartzel was only four shots off the lead midway through last year’s Nedbank Golf Challenge and there is no doubting his passion when it comes to winning the tournament he grew up watching and at which he finished as the runner-up in 2012.