Damien Kayat previews the 2022 edition of the DP World Tour’s Joburg Open taking place at the Houghton Golf Club in Johannesburg.
2022/2023 DP World Tour/ Sunshine Tour
Houghton Golf Club, Lower Houghton, Johannesburg, South Africa
There is no time for savouring anything in this game. The DP World Tour begins it’s 2022/2023 campaign just a week after Jon Rahm’s majestic dispay at the Earth Course.
The burly Spaniard put down a marker that suggests he will once again be a Major contender in 2023. Rory completed the double (adding the Race to Dubai honours to his FedEx Cup crown).
The DP World Tour will now host duelling events in South Africa and Australia. The Australian PGA Championship at Royal Queensland has actually attracted a pretty solid field (with Open champ Cameron Smith in tow).
The Joburg Open has struggled to attract the same calibre of field. This will be the first of three events to be staged before Christmas that are co-sanctioned by the DP World Tour and the Sunshine Tour.
Areil Canete- remember him- won the first edition of the Joburg Open back in 2007. It remained ever-present on the tour until 2017 (when it actually had two editions).
It went away for a few years before J.B Hansen won in 2020. And who could possibly forget last year’s edition? The newly conceived DP World Tour couldn’t have gotten off to a more farcical start than 2021.
The event was originally shortened to 54 holes due to potential travel restrictions for international players. Most of the international players got out while the getting was good (leaving the tour with a bit of egg on its face).
It was then shortened to 36 due to inclement weather. Triston Lawrence won the first-ever DP World Tour trophy after firing a pair of 65’s at Firethorn.
This year the event moves to a venue that hasn’t featured on tour in ages: Houghton Golf Club.
Houghton Golf Club
Like so many Joburg-based courses, Houghton is a tree-lined parkland course. It actually has a storied history and is one of the most iconic courses in South Africa.
It has hosted eight SA Opens and was the first home of the Alfred Dunhill Championship. The tree-lined test has undergone recent renovations under the watchful eye of Jack Nicklaus.
These renovations primarily aimed to populate the fairways with more bunkers. I think accuracy will likely prove more important than distance this week.
The 7,200+ yardage is deceptive due to the considerable altitude shift. Players will need to avoid the bunkers from the tee. There are also many holes where large trees will impede your line of sight for the approach. This will put an onus on players finding the right portion of the fairways.
President’s Cup player Christiaan Bezuidenhout makes a solid favourite this week. A former winner at Valderrama, the Joburg resident is something of a tree-lined specialist.
Defending champion Thriston Lawrence won his second DP World Tour title at the European Masters. He has established himself on the tour and will feel quite confident going into this week.
Veteran George Coetzee is a wily pro and former winner of this event. He is an incredible putter who could catch fire at any moment.
Elsewhere, Wilco Nienaber has never managed to live up to the hype. He has a driver of Bryson proportions, but he can’t bring his whole game together. Could this be a watershed week for him?
2021: Thriston Lawrence (-12)
2020: Joachim B. Hansen (-19)
2018-2019: no event
2017: Shubhankar Sharma (-23) *December
2017: Darren Fichardt (-15) *February
2016: Haydn Porteous (-18)
To Win Outright:
Christiaan Bezuidenhout 8/1 | George Coetzee 14/1 | Thriston Lawrence 18/1 | Oliver Bekker 22/1 | Louis de Jager 28/1
Zander Lombard- To Win 33/1 | To Place 7/1
This could be excatly the type of week that provides a Zander Lombard breakthrough. He plays his best golf in South Africa, and this field is far more impressive. Lombard is twice a runner-up in this event. This included his performance at last year’s much-derided 36-hole event: he finished four strokes behind Lawrence. It does concern me that he has only won once on the Sunshine Tour (back in 2017). But he’s just the sort of player who always manages to fanangle his way into contention in these events.
Jayden Schaper- To Win 45/1 | To Place 19/2
Schaper is just a great name for a golfer, isn’t it? This presents a real opportunity for Schaper to take the next step in his development. He rose to prominence with a sixth place finish at the 2020 SA Open (at the age of just 18). A final round 75 saw him blow the chance to win the 2020 Alfred Dunhill Championship. But he arrvies in really good form. His last six Sunshine Tour events yield form figures of 9-6-2-4-17-10. He is clearly one of the hottest players on the Sunshine Tour, and I think he could thrive in this field.
The Man to Beat- Thriston Lawrence- To Win 18/1 | To Place 39/10
I think Lawrence represents great value to defend his title at 18/1. He followed up his success at Firethorn with another victroy at Crans (also played at altitude). He went off the boil but bounced back with a highly impressive sixth at Valderrama. Like Houghton, Valderrama is a tight, tree-lined test (it should correlate well). He was third at the Nedbank before a dire final round saw him drop to 15th. Things seem to be pointing in the right direction for Lawrence.