Dave Tindall

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Joburg Open Preview

Monday, December 4, 2017

The European Tour heads back to South Africa this week for the sixth and final time in the calendar year of 2017.


The Joburg Open is the fourth event of the 2018 Race to Dubai which continues after the Christmas break with the South African Open, starting January 11.


As usual with this tri-sanctioned tournament, this is the biggest field of the year with a whopping 240 pros teeing it up.


To take that increased load, two courses are used although this year the tournament moves to Randpark Golf Club having been played at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington GC for the previous 11 editions.


While that venue undergoes renovation work, some of this week’s field will need to do their homework again at Randpark. It’s been used for the 1995 and 2000 South African Opens and, more recently, for the 2009 and 2010 SAA Pro-Am Invitational on the Sunshine Tour.


As usual, there are also three Open Championship spots up for grabs.



The courses


As with previous years, three of the four rounds are played on the tougher course, leaving just one chance for a cash-in lap on the easier track. The Firethorn, where Retief Goosen won the 1995 South African Open, is the host course this week and will be used for both weekend rounds. The official website says of the 7,595-yard par 72: “Superbly conditioned, it is longer and a little more difficult than Bushwillow with a great finish as 16, 17 and 18 are extremely demanding holes – all three potential card-wreckers.” The easier Bushwillow is also a tree-lined, parkland layout but measures in at just 7,114 yards. It has one less longer hole so par is 71. As this is Joburg, we’re over 5,000 feet up so the altitude will make the ball fly further.



2010 SAA Pro-Am Invitational – 1 Tyrone Ferreira, 2 Brandon Pieters, Jaco Van Zyl, 4 Joshua Cunliffe, Shaun Norris, 6 Darren Fichardt, Darryn Lloyd, 8 Jean Hugo, Ulrich Van Den Berg.


Top fives in European Tour events played in South Africa last season


Alfred Dunhill Championship – 1 Brandon Stone, 2 Richard Sterne, 3 Thomas, Detry, 4 Carlos Pigem, Thomas Aiken, Scott Jamieson, Benjamin Hebert, Charl Schwartzel.


South African Open – 1 Graeme Storm, 2 Rory McIlroy, 3 Jordan Smith, 4 Dean Burmester, 5 Thomas Aiken, Trevor Fisher Jnr.


Joburg Open – 1 Darren Fichardt, 2 Stuart Manley, Paul Waring, 4 James Morrison, Brandon Stone, Jacques Kruyswijk.


Tshwane OpenDean Burmester, 2 Mikko Korhonen, Jorge Campillo, 4 Peter Uihlein, 5 Alexander Bjork.


Nedbank Golf ChallengeBranden Grace, 2 Scott Jamieson, 3 Victor Dubuisson, 4 Haotong Li, 5 Martin Kaymer.


Home advantage: The combination of weather, kikuya grass and course knowledge certainly benefits the home golfers. So, for those above five events:


Events won by South African golfers: 80%

South Africans in top five: 40%





Temperatures gradually rise during tournament week from the low 70s to the early 80s but, despite a fair share of sunshine, rain is a constant threat and it could be in the form of a t-storm. Winds are modest although it could get gusty on Sunday.



The Leading Contenders


Louis Oosthuizen

The class act of the field. He’s won four of his eight European Tour titles on home South African turf although the latest of those was back in 2014. More recently, Oosthuzien was T9 in the Nedbank Challenge following a two-month break while last week he was T7 at the Mauritius Open, shooting 67-68-71-67 and finishing second in Putting Average. He’s still throwing in the odd mistake but if the former Open champ can tidy those up, he’s the one to beat.


Dylan Frittelli

The South African continued his memorable 2017 with a second European Tour win at last week’s Mauritius Open (adding to June’s Lyoness Open success in Austria). And it came as no surprise. Frittelli had ended the 2017 Race to Dubai with second place in Turkey and fourth in the DP World Tour Championship so he’s in a rich vein of form. Not amazing in SA events last year it has to be said (25-MC-16-12-42).


George Coetzee

Always has to be respected when the European Tour heads to his homeland. Coetzee made this event his first European Tour win in 2014 and added the Tshwane Open in 2015. His other victory came at the Mauritius Open (off the east coast of South Africa) in 2015 and he made another good fist of that event last week when shooting twin 68s on the weekend to crack the top 10. T7 in the last edition of the Joburg Open and, despite the new venue, he should feature strongly again.


Dean Burmester

The big-hitting local man could only shoot 81-71 at this venue in 2010 but he’s a far better player now and showed that with some excellent displays in South Africa last season, taking fourth in his home Open and firing a pair of weekend 65s to score a breakthrough win at the Tshwane Open. After a dip, he reminded us of his talents with an excellent top four in the DP World Tour Championship. T27 in Mauritius last week.


Haydn Porteous

One of the new wave of exciting SA golfers, Porteous won this event two editions ago (January 2016) and became a two-time winner on the European Tour when capturing the Czech Masters in September. Also a winner of the Kenya Open so he loves playing at altitude and T12 at the Nedbank Challenge and T21 in the DP World Tour Championship shows he has the form to make a big impact again.


Paul Peterson

The American is in flying form after connecting four top 10s on the Asian Tour, two of those second places. The latter came in the co-sanctioned Hong Kong Open two weeks ago and he added T22 in Mauritius last time. In that run he’s shot 70 or lower in his last 19 rounds. Adding to that, Peterson posted 62 in his opening round in this event last year (on a different layout of course) before finishing T7.


Darren Fichardt

The winner of this event at Royal Joburg last year but he’ll hardly to too upset that he has to defend at Randpark. Fichardt was runner-up there in the 2000 South African Open and also T6 in a Sunshine Tour event on his only other visit in 2010. As well as course and tournament form, Fichardt is playing nicely right now. He took T6 in the Nedbank Golf Challenge in SA two starts ago and followed that with T16 in Mauritius on Sunday.


Ashun Wu

The two-time European Tour winner (2015 China Open, 2016 Lyoness Open) had a run of three top 10s in August/September and also banked T20s in the WGC-HSBC Champions and last week’s Mauritius Open. In other words, give him respect. He also has a T16 at the last Joburg Open on his first ever appearance in South Africa back in February.


Shaun Norris

Norris is a Joburg local, who now plays in Japan – and with plenty of success too. He scored a second win in June and his last four starts there show four top sixes and, most recently, a runner-up finish in the Nippon Series JT Cup. A bonus is that the 35-year-old was fourth at Randpark in the 2010 SAA Pro-Am Invitational.


Matt Wallace

A win and a 70th place finish on the Race to Dubai represented a highly successful rookie campaign for the young Englishman. He actually banked his biggest cheque when fourth in the Italian Open, one of the prestigious Rolex Series events, in October. Very little experience in South Africa although he did improve throughout the week when T34 (75-75-71-69) in the recent Nedbank Challenge.

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Dave Tindall is former golf editor at Sky in the UK and has been writing betting previews for the European Tour since 1997. He can be reached via e-mail on and on Twitter @davetindallgolf.
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