This week the top-30 in the Big Easy Order of Merit descend upon the Wanderers Golf Club for the finale of the 2016 Big Easy year. With 2017 Sunshine Tour cards up for grabs, it will prove to be an intriguing finish to what has already been a highly competitive season.
Daniel Hammond claimed the Tour Championship at The Els Club, Copperleaf, last year with a one-stroke victory over eventual Order of Merit winner Christiaan Bezuidenhout.
Bezuidenhout has flourished since, winning the 2016 Sunshine Tour Qualifying School and backing that up with a superb second place finish at the BMW SA Open.
Hammond has struggled on the Sunshine Tour this year, while he has continued to impress on the Big Easy Tour winning the Big Easy – Modderfontein and recently finishing in a share of fifth at the King’s Cup.
Who to watch
Hammond will prove to be a favourite once again, however several new faces have arrived on the scene this year. With the introduction of the MENA Tour co-sanctioned events, players like Bryandrew Roelofsz, Jason Viljoen, Riekus Nortje and Sipho Bujela have stepped up their games.
Viljoen has been one of the most consistent performers on tour this year, racking up four top-10 finishes including two runner-up spots. A win is certainly on the cards for the 22-year-old.
Roelofsz has cemented his fifth place on the Order of Merit thanks to a win at the South to East Challenge, the first of the three MENA Tour co-sanctioned tournaments.
Nortje then continued the South African winning trend at the Big Easy – The ROAR at Waterkloof Golf Club. Finishing on 13-under-par, the part-time tour player, part-time coach knows how to get the job done.
Bujela currently sits in sixth spot on the Order of Merit table thanks to a win at the Big Easy – Royal Johannesburg and Kensington. With three other top-10s including a share of fifth at the King’s Cup, he looks to be playing some of the best golf of his career.
Others to keep an eye out include current Order of Merit number one Mark Murless, GFG Academy golfer Pieter Kruger, Bloemfontein Golf Club representative Makhetha Mazibuko as well as the ever-consistent N.J. Arnoldi.
At 6,538 metres in length, Wanderers Golf Club is a short course by professional standards, however slick greens and tight fairways provide a stern test and reward straight hitting.
The par 71 Wanderers layout has an unusual routing, in that it has three par-threes on the back nine and just one on the front. The front nine, which opens with a hole that underwent a major change in the renovation process, was lengthened from a long par-four into a 516-metre par-five.
Wanderers is one of only three clubs in the country with a SubAir system below the greens that can flush heavy rain away . The SubAir was installed 12 years ago when Wanderers called in course designer Rob O’Friel to modernise their greens in 1999-2000.
Wanderers held the South African PGA Championship on the Sunshine Tour from 1972 to 1992 and staged the Eskom Power Cup in 2006.