There are two tournaments left on the European Tour prior to Christmas and the first of those comes along on Thursday when a whopping 240 players head to Johannesburg for the South African Open.
This tournament has merged with the Joburg Open so you could argue there are two defending champions but by right it is Chris Paisley who defends the title that he won last year. He’ll do so on different courses though.
2017 – Chris Paisley
2016 – Brandon Stone
2015 – Andy Sullivan
2014 – Morrten Orum Madsen
2012 – Henrik Stenson
2011 – Hennie Otto
2010 – Ernie Els
2009 – Richie Ramsay
2008 – Richard Sterne
2007 – James Kingston
The tournament takes on the last host of the Joburg Open which Shubhankar Sharma winning on 23 under par. That is Randpark Golf Club in Johannesburg which was soaked with the rain last year but the courses are said to be in beautiful condition this year.
The Firethorn Course is the track that three quarters of the tournament will be played. It is a par 72 which stretches to 7,595 yards on the scorecard although given that we are at altitude it won’t play quite that long. The Bushwillow Course is the other track in use this week. That is a par 71 which measures 7,114 yards and needs to be taken care of in order to be in contention.
Both courses are fairly tight off the tee but the greens are tough to find so scrambling and putting is going to be a massive importance, as it should be in an event of this kind. The greens will scuff up with the amount of players on them so those confident at holing out should go well.
Given the heavy schedule that 2018 has provided it is largely the pick of the South African players who give the field any credence this week. Defending champion Chris Paisley leads an English charge but the profile will centre around the home players.
Louis Oosthuizen, Dylan Frittelli, Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace all tee it up this week while Dean Burmester is another in the field. Matt Wallace has already won three times in 2018 and he’ll be looking to make it four this week. George Coetzee and Ernie Els also make appearances in the event.
It is Louis Oosthuizen who is the 7/1 favourite to win the title. If he is at his best he should lead this lot an absolute merry dance but he hasn’t really shown signs that he is in tip top form for a while so that would be something of a concern it has to be said. I wouldn’t be surprised if he rocks up and wins but at 7/1 he can do exactly that without my money. He’s no value.
Dylan Frittelli is 11/1 to win the tournament. He has made fantastic strides throughout the year but whether he deserves to be the second favourite for the tournament I’m not sure. He has the power to take both courses down but he is another one who has levelled out in recent weeks. If home surroundings bring the best out of him he’ll have a chance but he’s too short for me.
Matt Wallace and Branden Grace are both 12/1 to win the tournament. I don’t ever think you can discount Grace in his homeland and his record in South Africa backs that up. If there’s any value in him it is only miniscule in my eyes though. Wallace has won three times in lesser events in 2018 so he’s capable of taking advantage of this weak field but I also think there is an air of a lottery about these multi-course tournaments so I don’t really want to be on anyone short.
Charl Schwartzel will tee off as a 16/1 poke this week which is another that looks pretty short. He has a wonderful short game though which will serve him well so he isn’t without a shot at the title but I would say his price is about right rather than anything special so I’ll leave him be as well. It is 22/1 bar.
Erik van Rooyen was the runner up in the Joburg Open around here last year and I think he has the tools to go well here again. He had five top 10s on the European Tour last season and returning to familiar surroundings should bring his best form back out again. His tee to green game is pretty good but we saw in Ireland last year that he is perfectly capable on and around the greens. If he can deliver his best stuff this week he could well end up going one better than 12 months ago.
I took Christiaan Bezuidenhout last week and he went fairly well for a top 15 finish and that should have tuned him up nicely for an assault on this tournament. He was safely in the top 10 of the Joburg Open last year before he had a Sunday to forget but with a year more golf behind him I don’t think he would make the same mistake again if he gets himself into contention. Having taken him last week I feel compelled to take him again here and at 66/1 the price is there to do so.
Tapio Pulkkanen was third here 12 months ago in the Joburg Open and since then he has recently recorded top 10 finishes at the Alfred Dunhill Links and the Turkish Airlines Open which is good form and it shows that when he has the chance to open his arms off the tee he thrives. He has that here. We also saw that he can scramble too as you can’t play well on those Scottish links without a short game. If he can put it all together he should be right there again this week.
Trevor Fisher Jnr is a consistent sort who often delivers his best golf in South Africa. There are events where he gets touched off by the strength of the field but that isn’t going to be the case this week. He has four top 20s on the Sunshine Tour this season which is another solid effort after three others in previous years. He performed well throughout his bag in Mauritius last week and a similar performance here could see him run well at a decent price.
VOID – Back E.van Rooyen to win South African Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 29.00 with Skybet (1/5 1-7)
Back C.Bezuidenhout to win South African Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with Boylesports (1/5 1-7)
Back him here:
Back T.Pulkkanen to win South African Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-6)
Back him here:
Back T.Fisher Jr to win South African Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 151.00 with 888sport (1/5 1-6)