Prize Fund – €1,300,000
Winners Prize – €206,050
The Middle-Eastern swing is over and the European Tour now moves to South Africa for a run of 3 tournaments (with the WGC Matchplay in between) to compliment the 5 events that have already taken place in the country.
The Joburg Open is one of the more respected competitions in South Africa, with it being held at the esteemed Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club on the outskirts of the city. The first 2 days of play are alternated between the East and West courses, with both warranting a lengthy drive and accurate iron play in order to post a decent score.
The weekend will then shift permanently onto the East Course, the harder of the two, which stands at a whopping 7,658 yards. The par 3 2nd measures at 253 yards, which could be a driver for the shorter hitters!
Although, we must say that it is not all about the power strikers, because it will be vital to find the greens, as the scrambling in and around will be difficult. Plus the likes of Richard Sterne and Zaco Van Zyl have great records here and they are not the longest off the tee.
In terms of betting, there is obvious favouritism towards the talented South Africans – Charl Schwartzel and George Coetzee, so we have tried to find some value in what is a very difficult tournament to predict.
George Coetzee (11/1 various)
Now, we know that Coetzee is at very low odds and on many occasions we would not go near him, but at the end of the day, he was too much of a quality player who should do very well on this course and couldn’t be missed.
His worst finish on this course in his last 4 appearances is T14, so he knows the track inside out and when you think how well he has been playing in recent weeks, it becomes a no-brainer that you should back him.
T5 in Qatar a couple of weeks ago after a T4 in Abu Dhabi, prove his cracking start to the year and when we’ve seen him, we can’t help but be impressed by his driving abilities – 53rd in driving distance, but even more so by how well he is putting – 1st in putts per round.
He is a home favourite who has often played well in South Africa and after his impressive Middle Eastern swing, there is no reason he shouldn’t do well when the crowd will heavily be on his side.
We have obviously gone outright on him this week because of his low odds, but if Schwartzel doesn’t walk away with it, then Coetzee will definitely be challenging come the weekend.
Thomas Aiken (25/1 StanJames)
Thomas Aiken has been on our radar from the very beginning of last season, mainly because of his effortless swing and tee to green abilities. Out of the South African cohort, he is one of the players who drifts under the radar, but when you look at natural talent, he is no different to the bigger names.
He has a solid record here, with a T6 last year and T3 in 2011, but we have been more impressed with how he has come to the fore in recent weeks with some impressive performances.
He looked particularly solid in Qatar a couple of weeks ago, finishing T5, never being outside the top 11 for GIR throughout the 4 days. And that is what Aiken brings, a solid tee to green game with the ability to attack pins for fun. When you look at his overall stats you sit back in awe – 17th driving accuracy, 61st driving distance and 5th GIR. Those prove the abilities he has to suit this course perfectly and there is no reason he cannot be the home winner come Sunday.
Magnus A Carlsson (80/1 BetVictor)
Magnus Carlsson is one of an abundance of Swedes with a lot of talent and potential. Yet for some reason or another he has failed to kick on and prove himself on the world stage. He is coming onto a course where he has played well at before though, recording a 2nd place in 2008, losing in a playoff to Sterne. He also finished T17 in 2012 and with his incredible iron play – 3rd for GIR and relatively long hitting – 50th in driving distance, he could challenge the leaders this week.
He has been in inconsistent form recently, but a T9 2 weeks ago will certainly give him confidence. Again, being at generous odds we felt it was too good to turn down.
Roope Kakko (150/1 Ladbrokes, 11/1 Top 10 StanJames)
Roope Kakko seemed like someone who was great value as an outsider considering his credentials. He had a superb year in 2013 on the Challenge Tour, picking up several top 10s and a win in late October. He has now gone onto play in 3 European Tour events, finishing T24, MC and T23 which doesn’t sound particularly impressive but when you think that he is 16th for driving distance and averages over 302 yards, he should find the length of the course easier to deal with.
It is unlikely that the Fin will win with some of the quality of the field but he is certainly an interesting outsider that could challenge for a place.
Graham Van Der Merwe (1000/1 various, 33/1 Top 20 StanJames)
A cheeky outsider for you all to consider. Graham Van Der Merwe is certainly not one of the household names who will be teeing up this week but he is a local lad who will be excited to get out and compete on his home course. He has finished relatively well here before, with a T19 last year and a 4th in another tournament held on the same course.
At the end of the day, with his odds there is no harm in chucking a few pennies on him!