Rory McIlroy returns for South Africa Open but the value is elsewhere

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The European Tour resumes for 2017 this weekend at the South Africa Open, and this year’s star name – and favourite – is Rory McIlroy.

Keeping to his word on an agreement with tournament player-host Ernie Els, McIlroy is making just his third appearance at the event, and his first since 2009.

Nevertheless, the bookies deem it suitable to install the world number two as 2/1 favourite to win at Glendower Country Club.

Ordinarily McIlroy wouldn’t be this short, but South Africa’s top three of Branden Grace, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen are all swerving the event.

Understandably, that may cause more than a few to look elsewhere for value, starting with the two men immediately behind McIlroy in the betting.

Andy Sullivan appears well-priced at 12/1. The Englishman won this event two years ago, and arrives in fine form, having picked up a pair of top-three finishes in his last four starts.

Alongside Sullivan in the market is reigning champion Brandon Stone, and the 23-year-old claimed the Alfred Dunhill Championship last time out too.

Again at 12s, 23-year-old Stone should feature strongly come Sunday, ahead of what is set to be his biggest year yet.

Looking further down the market and David Horsey is a man whose recent form makes him a contender well worth considering at 40s.

Since September the Englishman has landed three top-fives and another three top-13s from his last nine events – making the cut each time.

And as for a long-shot, Ashley Chesters could be the one to go for at 250/1.

The two-time European Amateur Champion is embarking on his first full year on the European Tour.

The Shropshire ace displayed no fear last time out at the Alfred Dunhill Championships for a handy T28, and with his confidence growing, could be on course for another strong weekend in South Africa.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing

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Richard Marsh

Richard loves his sport, especially if it involves the sound of tyres screaming around a race track. He's not fussy though and his '90s Premier League nostalgia and knowledge of team nicknames is tough to match.