Royal Swazi Challenge: Whats what?

[Monday, July 30, 2018 16:44:58]

The Sunshine Tour returns to eSwatini for the third time this season to stage the newest event added to the schedule this season; the Royal Swazi Challenge. The 54-hole tournament will run from 1-3 August and will be hosted at the Royal Swazi Golf and Spa.

The new tournament carries a purse of R800 000 and a total of 108 players will battle it out where, after 36 holes, a cut will be made to the leading 40 players and ties. The format will be a Stableford alliance.

The field:

A total of 108 players will form the field at this new tournament.

Defending champion:

This is a new event and has not been won before and while Justin Harding – the only man who has won in Swaziland this season – will not be playing here this week due to other commitments, whoever emerges with the victory will be a worthy winner.

The course:

The course takes its shape from the Lugogo Mountain Range and is a 6,872-metre parklands layout. The first nine holes are comparatively level, while the homeward nine fully exploits the mountainous terrain. All the greens have been planted with Durban Country Club grass, which provides a thinner and therefore a faster putting surface. The fairways are planted with hardy Kikuyu, which stands up well to constant use and remains relatively green throughout the year.

Some of its most obvious challenging features include lakes, gullies thick with vegetation, out-of-bounds areas running close to fairways, wickedly-placed bunkers (one of which is so steep that railway sleeper steps have been provided to facilitate access), swirling breezes and clusters of towering trees and indigenous plants.

Form player:

Merrick Bremner has not won a tournament this season but he looks to be headed that way. His only missed cut of the season came back in April where his opening rounds of 72 and 73 at the Old Mutual Zimbabwe Open condemned him to a spectator for the weekend at Royal Harare. From there he scrambled to a lowly 57thh finish at the Mopani Redpath Zambia Open and a 5th at the Investec Royal Swazi Open a month later.

His game only got better as the season progressed and the 13th he got at the Lombard Insurance Classic was just another exhibition of Bremner’s return to form. While a first round 74 was not an ideal for Bremner at the Sun City Challenge last month, good form and mental strength and resilience came to the fore as he went on to finish ninth in the tournament, his second top-10 of the season.

And, last week in Kenya, he proved his intention of going for a win when he finished runner-up to first-time winner Michael Palmer. Bremner failed to claim a win at KCB Karen Masters but there is no doubt that he was a real threat and judging by how he has been playing since that missed cut in Harare, he will soon enter the winner’s circle and what better place to do it than in eSwatini?

Sentimental pick:

In the 2009 Lombard Insurance Classic, Peter Karmis started the final round with no pressure. And that helped him get the right mindset to shoot the Sunshine Tour’s first-ever 59. Ever since then, Karmis has had very few problems shooting low scores at the Royal Swazi Golf and Spa and the fact that he has a win there from as recently as last season when he clinched the Investec Royal Swazi Open. He finished seventh when he returned for this year’s edition of that tournament and got 16th at the Lombard Insurance Classic on the same layout.

With only one missed cut this season and two top-10s, and an 11th place finish at Karen Country Club a fortnight ago, Karmis is a genuine contender and a real threat. He is also well-acquainted with the Royal Swazi layout so that if his game is on point, you can bet your last cent that he will impress and while it is not a foregone conclusion that he will have it his way this week, Karmis has everything it takes to win here this week.

The bolter:

Following his return to the Sunshine Tour via his qualifying school exploits, Anton Haig has looked a rejuvenated man and his results can attest to this fact. A solid start to the season where he finished 14th in the season-opening Zanaco Masters and 50th at the Old Mutua Zimbabwe Open, was suddenly pulled back to a halt as he failed to qualify for both the Investec Swazi Royal Swazi Open and the Lombard Insurance Classic eSwatini.

He bounced back with aplomb, however, and claimed his first top-10 of the season at the Sun City Challenge. In the intervening two weeks between Sun City and the KCB Karen Masters, Haig got on with the job and registered a top-10 finish at the Big Easy Challenge #5 where he came eighth at Killarney Country Club before taking home a share of 21st at the Big Easy #6 at Centurion Country Club.

He returned to the main circuit where he claimed a share of 18th with multiple winner Justin Harding and Zanaco Masters champion JJ Senekal at the KCB Karen Masters. All things equal, Haig can play himself to a win at any time when his game is on, and this week’s Royal Swazi Challenge presents him with another opportunity to reclaim his old form and begin to contend for victories again.

Credit: The Sunshine Tour