Dave Tindall

Across the Pond

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BMW South African Open Preview

Monday, January 8, 2018


After its month-long winter break, the European Tour is back!

 

For the next few months while the mainland collectively shivers, the Tour follows the sun.

 

First up is a return to South Africa and, pleasingly for gamers, there’s no waiting around for the Middle East Swing to launch the official European Tour fantasy game.

 

Nope, plan your teams right now as the year-long game tees off with this week’s BWM SA Open.

 

Once more, South Africa’s national Open takes place at Glendower GC, a venue used for the last four editions.

 

The home Springbok players can often dominate their own events but the count so far at Glendower is 3-1 to the Europeans, who extended their lead when Graeme Storm edged out Rory McIlroy in a play-off last year.

 

Who would have thought that it was the nearest Rory came to winning in 2017?!

 

There’s no McIlroy this time so the bookmakers have local duo Branden Grace and Charl Schwartzel at the front of the market.

 

 

The Course

 

Glendower GC, in Johannesburg, looks a beast at 7,594 yards but the ball really flies due to it being 5,000 feet above sea level. It’s a flat, tree-lined, parkland layout featuring kikuyu grass fairways and Bentgrass greens while water is in play on 11 holes. The front nine is longer although last year’s winner Storm played it in 11-under compared to 7-under on the shorter back nine. Runner-up McIlroy will attest to the 451-yard 18th being a tough closer as he played it in a collective 2-over.

 

 

Past winners, scores and stats

2017 
-18 Graeme Storm (DD: 30, DA: 12, GIR: 11, Src: 7, PA: 4)

2016 -14 Brandon Stone (DD: 13, DA: 59, GIR: 10, Src: 65, PA: 3)

2015 -11 Andy Sullivan (DD: 18, DA: 41, GIR: 31, Src: 5, PA: 1)

2014 -19 Morten Orum Madsen (DD: 14, DA: 66, GIR: 5, Src: 28, PA: 17)

 

Notes: It’s a mixed bag but three of the winners were in the top 11 for Greens in Regulation and the last three champions made the top four in Putting Average. Do you need to keep it out of the trees? Madsen and Stone didn’t do that and yet still won.

 

 

Weather

 

Some of the players who turned up early for practice have noted that Glendower is playing a little soft and the forecast suggest a storm on Tuesday. However, temperatures climb as the week goes on and the course should dry out on the weekend when the mercury rises to the high 80s and possibly early 90s on Sunday. Winds are set to be modest.

 

 

The Leading Contenders

 

Branden Grace

The local man won the most recent co-sanctioned event in South Africa when capturing the Nedbank Golf Challenge with a closing 66 and he’s got a pretty impressive record at Glendower too with a fourth place on his last visit in 2016 and T15 in 2015. He’s a fantasy must on home soil with his last 11 starts in South Africa showing three wins, a second, a third, two fourths and nothing worse than T20.

 

Charl Schwartzel

Schwartzel has teed it up twice at Glendower and finished fourth and second. That runners-up finish needs some detail though. He’d started the final round with a five-shot lead and all set to win his national Open in his native Johannesburg. Perhaps the script was too perfect as Schwartzel buckled badly at the finish and lost a play-off to Andy Sullivan after being four clear with five to play. However, after some slightly lacklustre play in the second half of 2017, this is an obvious place to shine again.

 

Dylan Frittelli

One of the new wave of young South Africans, who really made a big mark in 2017. Frittelli finished 19th on last year’s Race to Dubai after a win and a second and he’s already third on the 2018 list after landing last month’s co-sanctioned Mauritius Open. Also fourth at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Frittelli has a mixed record at Glendower (MC-18-MC) but that top 20 in 2016 is probably the best guide given the significant strides he’s made over the last year.

 

Dean Burmester

Just about the longest hitter of the South Africans, Burmester was 8th for Driving Distance last year. He can also putt and that potent combination helped him finish 42nd on last year’s Race to Dubai and prove that he can now hold his own away from home. On local soil he’s particularly potent though with course form of 4-10 at Glendower while Burmester also won last year’s Tshwane Open after a pair of weekend 65s.

 

Soren Kjeldsen

Burmester would outdrive him by a mile but Kjeldsen has veteran smarts and a neat and tidy game which still works well. The Dane has finished T16 and T12 in the last two editions of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at the massively long Gary Player Country Club so should easily cope with this course given that the ball flies further at altitude. He ended 2017 with five top 25s in his final six starts.

 

Jordan Smith

The English youngster’s impressive rookie season tailed off a little after it had reached a crescendo with a breakthrough first win (Porsche European Open) followed by a top 10 in the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow. But it was still a year to remember and one of its early highlights was a third place at this venue thanks to a 67 followed by three 68s. His solid all-round game is a good fit.

 

George Coetzee

Coetzee usually cashes in when the European Tour comes to his homeland and his wins include victory in the nearby Joburg Open. And yet, something always seems to go wrong at Glendower. To real surprise, he’s had three cracks at this tournament and missed the cut each time (70-77, 75-73, 70-76). Will it be any different this time? At least Coetzee finished 2017 well, with four top 10s in his final 10 starts.

 

Shaun Norris

The 35-year-old isn’t one of the South Africans we always think of in these events and he’s even further off most radars after playing last year in Japan. But gamers need to take Norris seriously. He pieced together four top six finishes in six starts on the Japan Tour from October to December and then took that good form to the Joburg Open where he finished third. He knows Glendower well and has a top three there form the Sunshine Tour’s BMG Classic although his form in this event is MC-41-MC-52.

 

Andy Sullivan

Having won the SA Open on this course in 2015 and finished T12 in 2013, Sullivan has to enter calculations. He also landed the 2015 Joburg Open and was third in the 2016 Nedbank Golf Challenge but he’s missed his last two cuts at this venue and rather lost his way in the second half of last year with just one finish (T18 at Andalucia Masters) inside the top 40 in his last 11 appearances. A risky play until we see whether he’s had a successful reboot over the winter.

 

Chris Wood

It’s his first time at Glendower but as a winner of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth we know he can thrive on tree-lined courses. The giant Englishman also boasts some decent location form with a T6 at the Tshwane Open and a third place in the 2015 Nedbank Golf Challenge. Like Sullivan, Wood didn’t pull up many trees between August and the season-ending DP World Tour Championship so some trust is needed.


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