European Tour: BMW South African Open Preview

Golfer admires shot with wood in hand

We preview the first European Tour event of 2018 - the BMW South African Open - which gets underway on Thursday 11 January at the Glendower Golf Course. 

The European Tour returns from its hiatus for one of the longest running national golf tournaments in the world: the SA Open. Originating in 1903, the South African Open has an illustrious history that speaks volumes to the weight of South African golfing excellence over the years.

Gary Player holds the most titles with 13 while Bobby Locke was victorious on nine occasions. Other previous winners include Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Vijay Singh. Graeme Storm won last year’s event after a dramatic showdown with Northern Irish superstar Rory McIlroy- who would have guessed that would be the closest the former World Number 1 would come to winning a title in 2017?

BMW South African Open | 11 January - 14 January | Glendower GC in Ekurluhuri

Glendower Golf Course will host the event for the fourth consecutive year. It is a flat, tree-lined, parkland style course which features kikuyu fairways and bentgrass greens. There is also water in play on 11 of the 18 holes. While the course may appear to be a beast at 7,594 yards, the truth is that the course is about 5,000 yards above sea-level, therefore exaggerating the length to a large degree. Length will still be important however, with no rain expected over increasingly warm playing conditions. The big bombers should be able to get good purchase in modest winds on a dry course.

Branden Grace and Charl Schwartzel understandably lead most betting markets, especially giving the knee-jerk tendency to favour those South African players with a broader European pedigree. Graeme Storm is back to defend his title while the likes of Ernie Els and Retief Goosen will no doubt attract large local support. The SA Open has also been the springboard in the past for young South African golfers to press their claim and don’t be surprised if a relative unknown catapults himself into contention.

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Past Winners
2017: Graeme Storm (-18)
2016: Brandon Stone (-14)
2015: Andy Sullivan (-11)
2014: Morten Orum Madsen (-19)
2013: Henrik Stenson (-17)

To Win OutrightBranden Grace 6/1 | Charl Schwartzel 13/2 | Dylan Frittelli 16/1 | Soren Kjeldsen 25/1 | Dean Burmester 25/1

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Value Bets

Jason Scrivener- To Win 50/1, To Place 11/1
While 28 year-old Scrivener represents Australia, he was born in South Africa and has an extremely respectable record in this event. He finished in a tie for 11th on debut here in 2015 before following that up with a tie for 12th in 2016. He also has run into a rich vein of form with a victory in the New South Wales Open and top 20 finishes in the co-sanctioned Aussie Open and Aussie PGA. He has familiarity with the conditions here and represents reasonable value at 50/1.

Thomas Aiken- To Win 66/1, To Place 14/1
A veteran of 14 SA Opens, Aiken has four top five finishes in this event over the last seven editions. Included in that are two T5 finishes since the event was moved from Serengetti to Glendower. So he clearly has both an affinity for the course and the event as a whole. His seemingly large price could be explained by the fact that he missed six out the last eight cuts in 2017, but he did sit second after 36 holes in the Hong Kong Open before capitulation. I have no doubt that Aiken will be recharged after the European Tour hiatus and will return to good form at an event that is so dear to him.

Mikko Korhonen- To Win 100/1, To Place 22/1
Looking towards the more speculative end of the betting spectrum, the Finn Korhonen looks a decent prospect. He had a decent T20 finish at the British Masters, but it his remarkable form in South Africa that really catches the eye. He has South African form that reads 13-2-7-MC-13-21-27. The recent 13th placed finish was at last month’s Joburg Open. He also finished in a tie for seventh in this event last year and should represent brilliant value at 100/1.

The Man to Beat- Dean Burmester- To Win 25/1, To Place 11/2
Of all the players in the upper echelons of the betting markets, Burmester looks like a man well worth fancying. Grace had an indifferent 2017 and looks slightly ridiculously favoured at 6/1. Burmester is probably the longest hitting of all the South African young guns: he was eighth in driving distance on the European Tour last season. He has previous finishes of fourth and 10th at Glendower and was also the champion at last years’ Tshwane Open. He looks very favourable at 25/1.

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets

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