Branden Back With A Bang In South Africa
South African Open Championship
Golf action returns to our screens this week with the South African Open Championship which gets underway in Gauteng on Thursday.
The South African Open is one of the oldest national golf tournaments in the world and the biggest event on the Sunshine Tour. Co-sanctioned by the European Tour, it was traditionally held in November and when last played in 2013, was one of the closing events in the Race to Dubai, but the switch to January has made it a less attractive proposition for the big names of European golf, and the ante-post betting list is dominated by South African players.
Once again the tournament is hosted by the Glendower Golf Club, Gauteng, a short parkland course of less than 7000 yards, which was created in 1937 and should be familiar to most of the South African players. The greens are straightforward, but there is an abundance of bunkers and water hazards, and the rough is said to be thicker this year, so accurate iron play will be key.
In The Bunker
Former Masters winner Charl Schwartzel finished in the top ten at the British Open and the Bridgestone Invitational last summer, but his form fell away after that and he ended the year poorly, only once breaking into the top twenty in his last four tournaments of 2014. He was last seen finishing 26th at the Alfred Dunhill Championship, a tournament he has dominated in recent years. He’s a class act in a relatively weak field, but 8/1 is too short a price given how he finished the year.
Branden Grace signalled his return to form with a top ten at the Dubai Open and a solid performance at the Cape Town Open before finishing 2014 on a high, clinching the Alfred Dunhill Championship thanks mainly to a storming first round of 62.
That was his first tournament win since his breakthrough in 2012, a year in which he won four titles. It would be no surprise to see him go on a similar run in 2015 and he could be a player to follow this year, starting this week. Back him at 8/1.
South African veteran Hennie Otto finished 2014 with a reasonably solid run of four consecutive top-twenty-five finishes and his recent record in the South African Open makes him a solid contender this week. He won the tournament in 2011, made the top ten the following year, and finished in a tie for second behind Morten Orum Madsen when the event moved to Glendower in 2013. He offers plenty of value at 16/1.
The final player to add to your shortlist is another South African, Jbe Kruger, who finished 2014 with a top twenty at the Alfred Dunhill, to follow his top five finish at the Cape Town Open. He tied for second in this tournament with Hennie Otto last year and can go one better in 2015 at odds of 20/1.