Just four days after the DP World Tour 2022 season finished, the new one gets underway with two tournaments in different parts of the world with one in Australia and the co-sanctioned event with the Sunshine Tour which is the Joburg Open.
This tournament opened up the calendar last season and it does so on the DP World Tour again for the 2023 campaign. Thriston Lawrence was the champion last season and he’ll attempt to defend the title on a different course this time around.
2021 – Thriston Lawrence
2020 – JB Hansen
2017-18 – Shubhankar Sharma
2017 – Darren Fichardt
2016 – Haydn Porteous
2015 – Andy Sullivan
2014 – George Coetzee
2013 – Richard Sterne
2012 – Branden Grace
2011 – Charl Schwartzel
We are off to the Houghton Golf Club in Johannesburg for the first time in a number of years this week. The course has previously held the South African Open and the South African PGA Championship and now it gets to host a Joburg Open. It is a parkland course which is treelined and plays as a par 72 with a yardage of 7,279 yards, although it should be said that it doesn’t play anything like as long as that because we are at altitude this week.
Although the course is treelined the fairways are said to be on the generous side but there is water in play throughout this course so while there isn’t too much of a demand off the tee other than distance control in the altitude, you get the feeling that the winner this week will be separated from the rest of the field when they have irons in hand. You often need to putt well in this part of the world as well.
Most of the star names in the game are either taking the week off after the season ending event in Dubai last week or they are over in Australia for the other season opening tournament. That leaves us with a field which has just two members of the top 100 in the world rankings in it. They are one of the better South African players in Christiaan Bezuidenhout and the defending champion Thriston Lawrence. Both will be looking to get into the top 50 if they can to be eligible for the bigger events.
Clearly this isn’t the strongest field we are going to get on the DP World Tour this season but there are some household names to pick out including George Coetzee, the big hitting Wilco Nienaber, Zander Lombard, Jayden Schaper and Brandon Stone. Leading the European charge is the likes of Romain Langasque, Renato Paratore, Matthew Southgate, Dale Whitnell and Sami Valimaki. It is a competitive if not elite field.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout is a 7/1 favourite to win the opening tournament of the season this week. He has a ridiculous record in South Africa having won on three of his last six starts in his home country. He didn’t go to Dubai last week but he was fifth in the Nedbank Challenge the week before so he looks like a player in form. He has real class with the irons and in and is probably the one to beat but he feels a tight price and not much value if there is any at all.
Thriston Lawrence is the defending champion this week and he is 14/1 to retain his title with his fellow South African player George Coetzee. Being the defending champion puts me off Lawrence as I hate backing them with all the demands on their time. He was in Dubai last week so he has been going through the time zones which is another negative. Coetzee won the South Africa PGA Championship earlier in the month so he goes into this event in decent form despite a poor outing at the Nedbank.
Hennie du Plessis is the next in the betting at 20/1. He tees it up for the first time in just over six weeks here but in his last tournament he finished in the top 10 in the Open de Espana so should be respected on that effort. He has finished second in his last two starts in South Africa so clearly enjoys teeing it up at home but I just wonder whether there will be any rust having formed with him having not teed it up for six or so weeks.
Oliver Bekker is the only other player in the field who is shorter than 33/1 this week. He is 22/1 to come out on top and while he wouldn’t be a popular winner with the DP World Tour due to his LIV ties, he probably would be with the home crowds. Bekker made it through to the DP World Tour Championship last week which as I said before is a negative with the time zone travel and everything but in his last five events in South Africa he has finished in the top three on three different occasions.
I’ll go with a couple of main bets over the course of this week with the first of those coming in the form of a South African player in Jayden Schaper. Schaper hasn’t really done much on the Challenge Tour but he is on fire on the Sunshine Tour where his last six outings have yielded finishes of 9-6-2-4-17-10. This tournament isn’t much better than a glorified Sunshine Tour event in truth so that form has to hold sway. Over the last eight weeks he is the third highest in terms of greens in regulation hit and that is the statistic I am keen on this week. He isn’t a bad putter either and he should be full of confidence so he is my main bet here.
I’ll also go with Renato Paratore who has some good form lines on treelined tracks and who has the length to really get after some of the holes on this golf course. There isn’t a huge amount in course knowledge among the field so the Italian isn’t going to be inconvenienced too much by the fact he isn’t a home player. The Italian ended last season with a couple of top 20 finishes in the Open de Espana and in Portugal where the fields were a lot stronger than it is here. He has a top 10 in South Africa in the past and he’s also finished in the top 10 at Wentworth which is probably the most famous treelined track on the DP World Tour. I’ll pay to see how the Italian goes this week.
I’ll go with a pair of South African players as outsiders this week. Hennie Otto is often a favourite of mine at this time of the year and he is one of the few players in the field who does have form on this course albeit from 20 years ago. He has been in good form on the Sunshine Tour this season with six top 10 finishes in his last 11 events and he has butchered a couple of final rounds else he would have had more than that. He didn’t achieve anything massive around here back in the day but he is clearly more experienced now and I see no reason why the veteran can’t provide us with a decent run for our money.
Ockie Strydom has finished second on the Sunshine Tour three times in 2022 and in the top 10 on another six occasions so he is another who is playing well at local level and he wouldn’t be the first one to transfer his form from that tour to a title here and launch his career. He was sat T12 in this tournament last year when the rains came and put paid to any further golf and the key to his success is generally hitting a lot of greens and performing well when he is on them. That’s exactly the test this week so I’ll pay to see how good a run he gives us.
Back J.Schaper to win Joburg Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 41.00 with Coral (1/5 1-7)
Back R.Paratore to win Joburg Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 51.00 with Boylesports (1/5 1-8)
Back O.Strydom to win Joburg Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 101.00 with Boylesports (1/5 1-8)
Back H.Otto to win Joburg Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 101.00 with Boylesports (1/5 1-8)
Back them here: