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Thomas Pieters
AP
Across the Pond

Mauritius Open Preview

by Matt Cooper
Updated On: December 2, 2019, 3:14 am ET

The 2019 European Tour season was launched in remarkable style last weekend at Leopard Creek when eventual winner Pablo Larrazabal’s final circuit first resembled a distressed animal lurching around the nearby Kruger National Park, ready to be picked off by the chasing pack, and then concluded with him finding something special from within to escape their clutches and complete a fifth victory at this level.

Now the Tour moves east for the fifth AFRASIA BANK Mauritius Open and the week marks something of rarity because the European senior circuit, the Staysure Tour, is also in the Indian Ocean, three hours north in Seychelles.

This tournament has been shared between Heritage GC, in the south of the island, which again hosts this week for a third time, and the Four Seasons Resort in Anahita, on the east coast.

South Africans have dominated at Heritage with George Coetzee taking the first trophy in 2015 and Dylan Frittelli the third in late 2017.

It’s worth bearing in mind that Mauritius is a very popular vacation, and property-owning, destination for South Africans and also the French. Many golfers of both nationalities have connections, formal or otherwise, with the island.

The Course

The course is a par-71 at 6,986-yards. There are two par-5s on each nine, but a total of five par-3s, three of them on the front nine. There is plenty of elevation change, with the drives off both the ninth and 18th tee boxes from high above the fairway. It’s a resort course with Bermuda grass on the green. Strong sea breezes are always a possibility (albeit the hotel is between the course and the ocean). The fairways are wide enough, but for real wide sprayers from the tee there are potential problems with high grass and jungle (and not many spectators or spotters).

Past Winners, Scores and Stats

2017 Dylan Frittelli (DD: 43, DA: 28, GIR: 1, SCR: 18, PA: 35, AR: 14)

2015 George Coetzee (DD: 29, DA: 50, GIR: 28, SCR: 14, PA: 4, AR: 12)

Notes: The winner might have had varied stats but the top putters finished runner-up both times.

The Weather

Temperatures in the high 80s, high humidity, not much chance of rain, but, as always on this island, the wind will be changeable (and often unpredictable) in direction and intensity.

The Leading Contenders

Thomas Pieters

No mucking about in 2020 for the Belgian who makes his debut in Mauritius, although we can’t entirely discount that he has not been here on vacation in the past – or, indeed, that it is not something of a vacation this week. But that is a risk with pretty much most of the field in reality (and could be a bonus as much as a risk). Last seen finishing T6 at Jumeirah, his second top ten since winning the Czech Masters in August.

Benjamin Hebert

A debut at the course, but not the event because he missed the cut 12 months ago at Anahita. He starts the season with high hopes, you would imagine, after his three second placed finishes in 2019, but how much will the three play-off defeats hurt? Knows all about French colonial paradise islands having lived on Tahiti growing up.

Christiaan Bezuidenhout

Can be partially forgiven last week’s missed cut because he had a nine on a par-4 and was playing catch up thereafter. At one stage he was playing so well it looked like he might make the cut. Before that he was T12 in the DP World Tour Championship. Played only two rounds here in 2017, but T15 at Anahita last year.

Justin Harding

Bounced back into form last week with T7 having threatened to get that close for a while. He was also T7 at the Open de Espana. He missed his first three cuts in this event, including twice here, but was a new man last year and proved it when T4 at Anahita.

Romain Langasque

Enjoyed a superb 2019, reaching the DP World Tour Championship, but perhaps a little tired when he got there. Made 13 top 30s in all, including T23 in this event at Anahita. Not only did he finish third in the 2017 event here, but he ranked first for Greens in Regulation.

Thomas Detry

A debut in Mauritius, but he finished 2019 in superb form, albeit struggling to make the breakthrough. He had 12 top 30s throughout the season, including eight in his last 13 starts. Third at the Nedbank Challenge and now opts to start the season before Christmas, unlike last campaign.

Zander Lombard

He’s missed three cuts in this tournament so is yet to experience a weekend on the course in Mauritius, but he’s had plenty of experience on blowy venues by the sea. That includes second in the Sicily Open at Verdura and sixth in the Irish Open at Ballyliffin. Possibly, more importantly, he is in form: T17 in the Turkish Airlines Open, T8 at the Nedbank Challenge and T7 last week at Leopard Creek.

George Coetzee

A rather surprise winner here in 2015 when guarding a surfing injury, but backed it up with T9 on course defense in 2017. He also collected T27 and T28 at Anahita so he clearly likes the island. He was T24 last week in the Dunhill Championship, T3 at the Open de France last month and a winner of a minor Sunshine Tour event earlier this month. Strong contender.

Nicolas Colsaerts

He missed the cut the only time he played this course, but he’s to be admired this week for three reasons. The first is that he was T3 at Anahita in 2016 (and T55 last year). The second is that he regularly spends time on the island. And the third is that he was a recent winner of the Open de France.

Shubhankar Sharma

His first experience of this island wasn’t much fun. In the high wind at Anahita in 2016 he carded 78-81 to miss the cut, but a year later (18 months in absolute truth) he was T27 at this course, opening and closing with 68s. Has started to rediscover his form, finishing T7 in both the Italian Open and Turkish Airlines Open.