Lombard Insurance Classic: What’s what

16th May 2018 | Sunshine Tour

Lombard Insurance Classic: What’s what

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The Sunshine Tour keeps the tents standing at Royal Swazi Sun Country Club, but this week for the 12th edition of the Lombard Insurance Classic which tees off on Friday.

The tournament boasts a purse of R1 million. It was first featured on the Sunshine Tour in 2007. The course was the home for Investec Royal Swazi Open. The tournament is expected to produce some fireworks as the list of players in the field includes five out of eight of the former winners.

 The format:

54-hole stroke play. In the tournament, there is a 60-team pro-am better ball medal and fourball alliance with two scores to count

 The field:

There are 84 professionals and 60 amateurs in total. Full professional field here.

 Defending champion:

Oliver Bekker (19-under-par, won play-off from Justin Harding)

 The course:

The course is situated in the heart of the famed Ezulwini Valley, which is known as a place where tourism in Swaziland began.

At only 6,166 metres in length, the par-72 layout opened in 1966. The first nine holes are flat, while the second and more scenic nine takes you on a trip through hills and dales, including the famous walk up ‘Thrombosis Hill’ from the 10th green to the 11th tee.

It is here where Peter Karmis made headlines by his groundbreaking 59 shot for the final round of the tournament in 2009. That is the lowest score in the history of the Sunshine Tour.

The course is itself an important fixture in Sunshine Tour history. It has hosted players of the calibre of John Daly, Ernie Els, Mark McNulty, John Bland, Dale Hayes and Fulton Allem.

 Form Player:

It took a double-bogey on his final hole which saw the on-form Lyle Rowe suffer a one-shot defeat giving the Investec Royal Swazi Open title to the eventual winner, Justin Harding, last week.

Rowe, from Humewood Golf Club, started the 2018-18 season on a high note as he came seventh in the Zanaco Masters. He managed to bounce back after missing the cut at the Old Mutual Zimbabwe Open, and he finished 16th in the Mopani Redpath Zambia Open a week later.

Rowe has produced solid results at the course which is home for the Lombard Insurance Classic and the Investec Royal Swazi Open over the last few years. He came 22nd in the Lombard Insurance Classic in the 2016-17 season, and 17th in the Investec Royal Swazi Open last year.

And then there was the near-miss last week. He seems to be ready.

Sentimental pick:

Merrick Bremner is a three-time winner for the tournament, in 2008, 2013 and 2016. He would want to turn things around following finishing 50th last week in the Investec Royal Swazi Open. He started the 2018-19 season on a good note as he finished ninth in the Zanaco Masters last month. That was followed by missing the cut for the Old Mutual Zimbabwe Open and finishing 57th in the Mopani Redpath Zambia Open.

Except for his only missed cut at the Royal Swazi Spa Country Club in recent years – for the Investec Royal Swazi Open in 2014 – Bremner has played well at the course. Most recently, he came sixth in the Investec Royal Swazi Open and 23rd in the Lombard Insurance Classic in the 2017-18 season.

 The bolter:

He might have failed to qualify for Investec Royal Swazi Open last week, but the results that Musiwalo Nethunzwi has achieved in the first three tournaments of the 2018-19 Sunshine Tour season show that he has got what it takes to produce good results this week at the Lombard Insurance Classic.

The Gary Player Class of 2018 player comes to the tournament with his mood set right by the 30th place finish at the Zanaco Masters, 31st at the Old Mutual Zimbabwe Open and 39th in the Mopani Redpath Zambia Open. He will want to have a taste of playing the weekend of the tournament for the first time after two missed cuts in 2015 and 2017 and failing to qualify in 2013.

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