After a three-week sojourn amongst the sand dunes of the Middle East, the European Tour heads south of the equator for the Joburg Open, staged at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.
The tough East Course hosts the tournament with the easier West Course also played once ahead of the cut. Not surprisingly, South African players have dominated recent renewals, winning the last three and four of the last five, with many locally born or based players filling the each-way payout places.
Charl Schwartzel heads the betting at 5/2 as he looks to win this event for a third time, having claimed victory in 2010 and 2011. The former Masters champion is also hoping for a third straight success, due to clinching both the Thailand Golf Championship and the Alfred Dunhill Championship titles just before Christmas.
But a seven-week absence from the fairways is a worry – both his previous successes in this week’s event have come after a run. So at cramped odds he is overlooked.
Instead, back his compatriots Branden Grace (7/1) and George Coetzee (7/1), whose combined odds are still bigger than Schwartzel’s.
Grace is the defending champion and has finished inside the top ten in each of his three 2013 starts. Coetzee is still waiting for a first European Tour victory, but went close to dropping his maiden tag in Qatar a fortnight ago when he was denied by Chris Wood’s eagle on the 72nd hole. Both players are long enough off the tee to cope with the near 7,600 yards of the East Course, while Coetzee topped the putting stats in Qatar two weeks ago.
That honour last week went to Garth Mulroy, on his way to 15th place in Dubai. Twice a runner-up in this event, he is worth each-way interest at 25/1 at one of his favourite courses.
My three to follow – Grace, Coetzee and Mulroy.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date