Before this weeks preview, we would like to apologise for a slow month or two in our write-ups, it has been a crazy time for a whole host of reasons. We will slowly get back to normal now though, beginning with a quick look at week 1 in Durban…
Here we go again. The 2014 European Tour season gets underway in South Africa with the Volvo Golf Champions tournament. Many of the 2013 winners assemble to take on the Durban Country Club course in the hope that this will be their big year.
Everyone will hope they can emulate even half of the success that Henrik Stenson had for so long last year and whilst he is taking a well-earned break at the moment, he will be defending his Race To Dubai crown over the coming months.
The Durban Country Club runs alongside the Indian Ocean that means it has a links feel to it and measuring at just 6,732 yards, the short nature of the track gives a unique and interesting challenge for the players.
It is an iron players paradise, with tight fairways and very small greens to attack. Technical gurus and shot-making thinkers will come out on top come Sunday and we have 3 names that simply jumped out at us when we looked at the odds and field.
Bring on the 2014 season.
Matteo Manassero (30/1 StanJames)
The young Italian had an up and down 2013, at times showing his superb talent, whilst also showing some really ordinary golf throughout the year – 3 top 10s is simply not good enough for someone of his calibre. When he got the chance on courses of his liking though, his game shines through and this is a track that will suit Manassero perfectly.
With everything so tight and short, he will not have to exert every inch of power off the tee as he usually does and can just concentrate on his remarkable tee-to-green abilities.
He came T9 here last year, which proves his liking for the course, and with a big year expected, it is the best place for him to kick on.
He has changed clubs this year though, signing for Phil and Ernie’s Callaway, which could provide some troubles but he said that he has been practising with the irons for a while now, in order to get used to them.
Let’s just hope he doesn’t do a McIlroy.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat (33/1 various)
Dubbed the ‘Thai John Daly’, Kiradech started last year like a train before inevitably, slowing down as 2013 ended. When he was playing well he is very solid tee to green and doesn’t thrive off a huge amount of power, which is bizarre considering the size of the bloke. He is a confidence player without doubt and there is no reason he can’t start this season like he did last year.
Another major plus for Kiradech is the fact he won’t have to walk too far throughout the four days – a major bonus. His win at the Avantha Masters was cut to 3 rounds and that does say something to us…
Richard Sterne (40/1 various)
Richard Sterne was one of DownThe18ths stalwarts last year and he certainly helped begin our journey when he won the Joburg Open in February, bringing us our first win.
10 top 20s and 3 top 3s is a very good return and finishing T14 at the end of season Tour Championship with 4 very consistent rounds summed up the South Africans year – reliable and steady.
That is the sort of golfer Sterne is, a very good tee to green player, who like our other 2 bets, lacks a lot of power off the tee. He will thrive in the windy conditions and if he is up there (preferably without Schwartzel and Oosthuizen) there will be plenty of vocal support from the locals.
It would simply be great symmetry if he kicks off this new season with our first win, just like last year.