The Joburg Open 2017 Preview


Our golf scribe runs the rule over the 2017 Joburg Open.

The European Tour continues with its excursions into the sunniest jaunts in the world this week, with the tour heading to Johannesburg for this co-sanctioned event with the Sunshine Tour. However, the prospect of a sub-tropical paradise looks bleak, with extremely heavy rain predicted for much of the week, with a whopping 50mm of rain predicted to fall on Tuesday alone. If that is the case, defending champion Haydn Porteous is going to have his work cut out for him as receptive greens may put Richard Sterne’s ridiculous course record of 27 under at risk.

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The Joburg Open will take place over two courses for the first two days, the slightly shorter West Course and more difficult East Course. An inordinately large field of around 210 will alternate between the two courses over the first two rounds, only to revert solely to the more challenging East Course over the weekend. And although on paper they both look long courses, the ball travels exponentially further above sea level, which all points to a low scoring turkey-shoot this weekend.
Brandon Stone is the bookies favourite, and with excellent reason. The 23-year-old is hoping to become the next superstar in a tradition of internationally renowned South African golfers. It’s a bit of a pity that the likes of Schwartzel and Grace have bigger fish to fry, leaving the profile of the tournament in something of a state of flux. But it does introduce a greater possibility that some savvy spectator may yield some great dividends this weekend.

The Joburg Open | Thursday 23 February - Sunday 26 February | Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club

Past Winners
2016: Haydn Porteous (-18) | 2015: Andy Sullivan (-17) | 2014: George Coetzee (-19) | 2013: Richard Sterne (-27) | 2012: Branden Grace (-17)
To Win Outright
Brandon Stone 12/1 | Richard Sterne 16/1 | George Coetzee 16/1 | Jaco Van Zyl 16/1 | Jordan Smith 18/1

Value Bets
Anthony Wall - To Win 28/1 To Place 6/1
Wall has had an extremely subdued start to the season, only playing in the Desert Swing thus far. He did manage a few solid finishes but has yet to really stand out. The diminished field here should give him more room to operate. His tournament form is really exceptional, with three top 10’s in his last three visits, including 2nd and 3rd placed finishes. He also never played in what was ultimately a fairly gruelling exercise in Australia last week, which should leave him feeling reasonably refreshed going into this week.

Christiaan Bezuidenhout - To Win 55/1 & To Place 12/1
Following in the vein of Haydn Porteous’ stunning victory last year, I’m opting for another of the young South African contingent. He finished inside the top 25 last season, although some saw that as a disappointment following a herculean effort to finish 2nd behind Stone at the SA Open. Perhaps the added exposure and pressure got to the young man, but he did pick up that all important maiden victory at the Sun Fish River Challenge in October. He seems to have continued that form into 2017, with a couple of top 5 finishes at the Dimension Data Pro-Am and Eye of Africa tournaments. So I think that Bezuidenhout could be the natural successor to the Porteous crown.

Soomin Lee - To Win 75/1 & To Place 16/1
This one is really just a shot in the dark. Lee hasn’t been in the greatest form, but the talented 23-year-old has duked it out with the European elite before. Prior to 2016, his best finish had been a runner-up performance at the Maybank Championship. That all change with a tremendous victory at the 2016 Shenzhen Invitational, which momentarily catapulted him into the upper echelons of the European Tour. His form has been inconsistent since then, however, although he did complete a top 30 finish at this year’s Maybank a few weeks back. It seems to indicate that this is a strong section of the season for the talented South Korean.

The Man to Beat
Brandon Stone - To Win 12/1 & To Place 26/10
The 23-year-old Stone is the favourite for a reason, looking to make it a hat-trick of co-sanctioned events with this week’s tournament. He also won his national title last year whilst recording a commendable top 10 against a stellar field in Dubai. His best finish at this tournament is a fairly modest tie for 16th some three years back, but the youngster is picking up invaluable experience week by week. Conditions should favour his aggressive, birdie orientated game-plan this week.

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets

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