Steyn City Championship preview selection analysis
THE Club in Steyn City, north of Johannesburg, hosts its first major international tournament with the new $1.5 million Steyn City Championshipwhich debuts in the Sunshine Tour and DP World Tour program.
“We are very pleased to welcome the Steyn City Club to our co-sanctioned program and to be able to expand our international golf offering with another world-class event at an equally world-class venue,” said Thomas AbtCommissioner of the Sunshine Tour.
“We have been discussing ways to develop a relationship with Steyn City and I am delighted that we can announce this new tournament in partnership with the DP World Tour, and bring yet another great international golf tournament to the city of Johannesburg.”
The Jack Nicklaus-designed championship golf course is the home base of the internationally award-winning Steyn City Parkland, north of Fourways, Johannesburg.
The Steyn City Championship will not only feature a magnificent golf course, but also one of South Africa’s best-known residential estates – which was recently ranked among the top ten estates in the world by the estate intelligence firm New World Wealth – to an international audience.
“It is extremely exciting for us to welcome our members and residents to this prestigious event, right on their land,” said Giuseppe Plumari, CEO of Steyn City Properties. “We are also delighted to partner with the DP World Tour and the Sunshine Tour and open our doors to all companies present and, of course, gamers.”
And for the second consecutive week JC Ritchie will have tremendous home support. The South African has won back-to-back Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour events at the Jonsson Workwear Open and Cape Town Open and is in the shape of his life.
It’s worth reflecting on Ritchie’s incredible play at the Workwear Open. On a windy day at the Durban Country Club, Ritchie held off a heavy charge from Belgium Christophe Mivis and signed for a final round 71 to win the Workwear Open by six of 26 under par.
“I don’t have the words for it,” he said. “I hit a hole-in-one, set a course record, celebrated my birthday, beat my lowest score twice, and then won the tournament. I never dreamed of it. It’s special. “
The Johannesburg golfer entered the final round with a 10-stroke lead and having set a Challenge Tour record 54 holes of 25 under par. But on a trickier final day that changed the nature of this golf course, his lead was reduced to two strokes with five holes remaining as Mivis rose to the challenge that was offered to the rest of the field.
While Ritchie went through 13 holes at one over on the day, Mivis was eight under on 15 holes. The Belgian birdied four in five holes during the turn, bogeyed the 12th, then birdie the 13th, eagled the 14th and birdie the 15th to suddenly have Ritchie in sight for the first time this week.
“I had no idea what was going on until we finished playing the 14th hole. That’s when my girlfriend Sarah came up to me and asked me if I wanted to know the scores and I said “Yes”. I was surprised. But I never felt like I was in trouble. I always knew someone was going to shoot maybe seven under par, and that would still be three under me. I knew I just needed to be at par or under par. I was hitting the ball well enough not to shoot over par. I was a little nervous but once I settled into the final round I was an over par and still had the lead by a few shots which made it easier to come down the stretch for make a few good swings and find birdies on the last two holes,” Ritchie said.
Mivis missed his last two holes to settle for second place at 20 under par with a final 66.
European Tour Legend Marc McNulty rates Ritchie highly. “I’ve been watching JC for a while now and he’s got immense talent. I love his swing and he’s a very solid putter. He has got everything. I think if he’s able to progress on the DP World Tour or the PGA Tour he’ll be very successful,” McNulty said.
And Ritchie is just as eager to take that step.
“It’s what I dreamed of and I’m happy to have managed to get a little closer than I was last year. I hope to be able to close it before the end of these Challenge Tour events in South Africa. I always thought my game was good enough to win in Europe and I’m good enough to take the plunge. In golf, all it takes is one tournament for everything to change, and it kind of does.
(Image credit: Kevin Diss Photography)
Once again there is a strong South African presence, led by Thriston Laurent, Daniel von Tonder, Dean Burmester, Wilco Nienaber, Zander Lombard, Brandon Stone and George Coetzee. Major Europeans making the trip include Bernd Wiesberger, J.B. Hansen, Adri Arnaus, Ross Fisher, Fabrice Zanotti.
Keep an eye on India Shubhankar Sharma. At just 25, he won the Joburg Open in December 2017 before adding the Maybank Challenge two months later. He’s spent some time trying to break into the PGA Tour and would be the first to admit he’s gotten a little sidetracked. Like so many before him, Sharma decided to make some swing changes in the quest for some extra distance. He has now come back to what he knows and it is starting to pay off. He finished tied for second at the Abu Dhabi Championship and was tied for 13th at the Kenya Open, a tournament he could have won had it not been for a disappointing third round of 75. But he ignored and bounced back with a closing 69.
Arnaus is another who continues to make good progress. The Spaniard is an impressive ball striker who needs to improve his short game. Nonetheless, he was tied for ninth at the DP World Tour Championship, 20th at the Abu Dhabi Championship, tied for ninth at the Ras al Khaimah Classic and tied for eighth at the Kenya Open. And he lost in the playoffs at Pecanwood last week to fellow Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal. He is heading in the right direction and is a player to watch as the season progresses.
This is the first staging of this event.
The Steyn City Club was designed by Jack Nicklaus and is widely regarded as one of its best courses outside of America. It has many drops, 75 bunkers and several water obstacles. It’s a par 72 measuring a fearsome 7,716 yards.
JC Ritchie arrives here full of confidence, believing his first DP World Tour title is just around the corner. Adri Arnaus continues to compete, is in good form and is ready to win.
JC Ritchie. Ready to take the next step
In each direction:
Adri Arnaus. Victory can’t be far
Golfers to watch:
JC Ritchie. Looking to add a DP World Tour title to his CV
Adri Arnaus. Make real progress
Shubhankar Sharma. Back to its best
Thriston Lawrence. Already a winner
Ross Fisher. Excellent ball striker
Wilco Nienaber. Still to learn
Daniel von Tonder. Underestimated
David Law. gifted scottish
David Drysdale. The veteran loves this part of the world
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