Aaron Rai is looking for a second win in Africa
Rasmus Hojgaard can build on his tournament debut
Richie Ramsay went close last year
1981 was a ridiculously good year for sport.
Ian Botham won the Ashes.
Ricky Villa won the FA Cup.
Shergar won the Derby.
Aldaniti and Bob Champion won the National.
Steve Davis won a first World Snooker Championship.
John McEnroe won Wimbledon, defeating Bjorn Borg in the final.
And Johnny Miller defeated Seve Ballesteros in a sensational nine-hole sudden-death play-off to win the inaugural Million Dollar Challenge in Sun City.
Hang on - what?!?!
Yes, it was a magnificent finale, two of the sport's great performers in a prolonged head-to-head battle, but we don't remember because they shouldn't have been there having overlooked the UN's sporting sanctions against South Africa.
Amid so many discussions of the why's and wherefores of sportsmen and women having their tummies tickled by dodgy regimes it's often forgotten that doing so places an asterisk next to any achievement - or even, as in Miller's case, sees the effort written in the record books with invisible ink.
This week's field is not as elite as that 1981 renewal (which also included Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Gary Player) but Tommy Fleetwood returns seeking to complete a hat trick after victory in the last two editions. Americans Justin Thomas and Max Homa have accepted invitations, and Ryder Cuppers Justin Rose, Nicolai Hojgaard, Robert MacIntyre, Francesco Molinari and Thorbjorn Olesen are also in town, as is Presidents Cup veteran Branden Grace.
If history is any guide those nine are in the box seat because every single winner of this tournament played in the Ryder or Presidents Cup.
Four of the last five runners-up have not performed at that level so it's entirely possible that it's a trend that is ready to be rumbled. Given the following three each-way picks, let's hope so.
In just two starts at this event, the Englishman Aaron Rai has really taken to the test.
Back in 2018, he finished eighth and a year later he was T13th (and tied sixth heading into the final round).
In that first start, he ranked second for hitting the greens in regulation and he improved on that to rank first 12 months on.
That's got to be a big tick in the box because seven of the last eight winners in this event at the Gary Player Country Club ranked eighth or better for GIR (with three ranking first and six ranked top four).
Not only are his results on the course solid, he's also won at altitude (Sun City is 1,000 metres above sea level) when claiming the Kenya Open.
That's good news because 10 of the last 11 winners of the tournament had lifted a trophy in thin air.
And what about his form? Well, he was second in the BMW PGA Championship in September and since then has ticked off a pair of top 30s on the PGA Tour before adding ninth in the Qatar Masters.
That's solid and this week should suit - a good challenge is well within him.
Like Rai, the Dane Rasmus Hojgaard has made a promising start to his tournament record.
Twelve months ago he carded opening rounds of 68-69-69 to find himself the joint leader with 18 holes to play.
"Overall, my driving has been key," he said, adding: "You need good driving to do well out here - there's so much trouble on each side."
It's an oft-noted factor at the course and the presence of Fleetwood, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia on the honours board as multiple winners backs it up.
Moreover, in finishing top 30 in his last four starts Hojgaard has performed well with the driver.
He ended last year with a 76 to fall back into a share of seventh having said before the round: "I'll just try to stay as calm as possible tomorrow. Don't try to force anything. If I can have a clear focus and not try to hit difficult types of shots, try to keep it simple as possible, I've got a good feeling."
It didn't work out then but, although common wisdom likes to be spooked by such experiences, the reality is that very often they prove instructive.
Hojgaard is good enough for that to be the case this week and while he hasn't yet made a Ryder Cup team he has the potential to do so in the future he's also got a win at altitude in the Swiss Alps at Crans.
On his tournament debut in 2016 Scotsman Richie Ramsay got off to a flier with a round of 69 to sit one back of the lead on his way to T25th.
A year later he improved to T19th but stumbled to T42nd in 2019.
Last year he was third, finishing the week three blows back of the winning total when he had a live chance of setting it late in the day.
He pushed to do just that and in the process made bogey at 17 and 18 but he'll know he got close.
He's another who has good memories of playing at altitude because he's also won at Crans and he also won the South African Open back in 2009.
Form-wise he's made 15 of his last 16 cuts but lacks a top 10 since July, although it's good news that he ranked top five for GIR in his last two starts.
If can use memories of last year as fuel, however, he can contend again this week.
Regular readers will guess that I was very tempted by Thriston 'Thin Air' Lawrence, who was third with 18 holes to play here last year, but Ramsay it is.
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