The European Tour heads to Johannesburg in South Africa for this week’s Joburg Open – an event co-sanctioned by the European
and Sunshine Tours. The ninth edition of this event doesn’t attract the strongest of fields with recent home stars and past
champions Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace notable absentees, but it certainly looks an interesting event from a betting
The market is headed up by defending champion George Coetzee and the revitalised Alex Noren, and whilst neither can be easily written off, I believe there is plenty of value elsewhere.
First and foremost, we should note the excellent record of the home contingent in this event with five of the last six winners of the event calling South Africa home. Also not to be ignored is the importance of distance off the tee here. Of the two courses in circulation this week, the East Course certainly rewards those who can get the ball out there – playing to a yardage of 7,590. The West Course, whilst the easier of the two, is not exactly a pitch ‘n’ putt at a shade over 7,200 yards.
The overriding trend I think worth factoring in here is current form. Despite the length of the East Course, winning totals here have been relatively low in recent years, and the tournament certainly seems to reward those who come to Johannesburg with their games in good shape. Last year’s winner George Coetzee had top-5 finishes in each of his last two starts before winning here, 2013 winner Richard Sterne came here off the back of a runner-up finish preceded by a tie for 7th, and 2012 winner Branden Grace came here off the back of a pair of top-15 finishes.
On this note, Byeong Hun An can’t be ignored as one of the form players on the European Tour. In his last three starts (all in much stronger fields than this week) his finishes read 12-5-13 so his game is clearly in excellent shape. This time last year, the Korean made his Joburg Open debut, and things looked very promising at the 54-hole stage when he was sat inside the top-10. Sadly, he made a terrible start to his final round, making the turn in 44 strokes before salvaging respectability with a birdie-eagle finish. A horrible three-hole stretch in the context of a 72-hole tournament shouldn’t be over-analysed, however, and I expect a big week from the 23-year-old.
Danie Van Tonder is one of a promising crop of young South African players threatening to win a big event soon – and with a relatively weak field here, this presents the ideal opportunity for the 23-year-old to get over the line in a co-sanctioned event. 2014 was an excellent year for Van Tonder with a pair of victories on the Sunshine Tour coupled with a runner-up finish in the Tshwane Open (which also rewards Driving Distance to a large extent). Van Tonder is showing progressive form in the Joburg Open with his last three visits reading C-19-9, and he comes here off the back of a tie for 3rd in last week’s Dimension Data Pro-Am.Danie Van Tonder - 1pt e/w @ 50/1
With three Challenge Tour wins to his name to date, a European Tour title is the natural next step for Seve Benson and he’s been there or thereabouts on a handful of occasions lately, coming particularly close in last year’s Trophee Hassan. Benson is an excellent driver of the ball which should stand him in good stead for this week’s test, and despite missing the cut in each of his two previous visits, a tie for 10th last year shows what he is capable of here. Going back to the aforementioned ‘current form’ trend, Benson comes here with finishes of 19th and 35th in his last two outings, the latter of which promised greater than it delivered as he lay in third place at the halfway stage.Seve Benson - 1pt e/w @ 50/1
Having won the co-sanctioned Alfred Dunhill Championship in 2011, Garth Mulroy clearly has what it takes to prevail in this type of field. Furthermore, the 36-year-old is a veritable course expect with a pair of runner-up finishes and a recent top-10 finish to his name here. Mulroy has shot rounds of 64 and 65 in recent trips to the tougher East Course, so the only question-mark remaining is one of current form. Last week’s top-20 finish in the Dimension Data Pro-Am might not get pulses racing, but he shot the lowest round on Sunday (a 66), and this could just be a sign of things to come this week.Garth Mulroy - 1pt e/w @ 66/1
Justin Walters will be happy to put 2014 behind him, having managed just a solitary top-10 all season. Encouragingly for punters, this top-10 finish came right here in the Joburg Open in the shape of a runner-up finish (featuring a round of 64 on the East Course). That performance came off the back of a pretty mediocre run of form, whereas this year he comes here fresh off a top-10 finish in last week’s Dimension Data Pro-Am. The 34-year-old may have taken his time to get to grips with Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club, but his last three visits read 37-16-2.Justin Walters - 1pt e/w @ 100/1