Damien Kayat previews the 2023 edition of the DP World Tour’s South African Open taking place at Blair Atholl Golf and Equestrian Estate.
2023/2024 DP World Tour/ Sunshine Tour
South African Open
Blair Atholl Golf and Equestrian Estate, Lanseria, Johannesburg, South Africa
30th November- 3rd January
So much for Thirston Lawrence’s cold-blooded ruthless streak in DP World Tour events. The burly South African fumbled a three-stroke lead in the final round of last week’s Joburg Open, finally settling for a T7 finish after a horror-show front-nine.
Dean Burmester would end up winning his first title in nearly three years but the event will surely be remembered for showcasing Lawrence’s fallibility in a leading position.
The South African Open
The tour moves to its 2nd of three consecutive co-sanctioned events with the Sunshine Tour: the SA Open. Dating all the way back to 1893, the SA Open is the second-oldest national open in the world (behind the iconic Open Championship).
The SA Open has been a co-sanctioned event between the Sunshine Tour and DP World Tour since 1997. The 2021 edition was meant to follow in that tradition until COVID-19 travel restrictions saw most DP World Tour players withdraw.
The decision was wisely made to relegate that event to a standard Sunshine Tour outing. This year’s edition will be the 113th staging of the iconic event.
Blair Atholl Golf and Equestrian Estate
Blair Atholl Golf and Equestrian Estate will continue hosting duties after staging its maiden SA Open last year. This Gary Player-designed monster measures nearly 8,200 yards. Sure, the altitude in Joburg does pinch about 10% off that total but you are still looking at a fearsomely long track (especially with water in play on 11 holes).
Players will use plenty of mid to long irons on approach and distance will certainly be a factor. It’s obviously a bit too soon to glean anything statistically after just one edition hosted here. But last year’s edition did seem to indicate that putting well on these Bentgrass greens could prove crucial to success at Blair Atholl.
Big-hitting Dean Burmester has a very realistic chance of making it back-to-back titles this week. He finished fifth here last year despite coming into the event in very ordinary form.
Defending champion Thriston Lawrence is going to need to bounce back quickly should he stand any chance of winning his national open in consecutive seasons. He is already a four-time DP World Tour winner and I wouldn’t put it past him to bounce back.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout is a dangerous lurker while South African stalwart Charl Schwartzel has the class to rise to any occasion. This is a pretty tepid field and I think that opens it up to all sorts of possibilities.
2022: Thriston Lawrence (-16)
2021: Daniel Van Tonder (-16)
2020: Christiaan Bezuidenhout (-18)
2020: Branden Grace (21)
2018: Louis Oosthuizen (-12)
2017: Chris Paisley
To Win Outright:
Dean Burmester 7/1 | Thriston Lawrence 14/1 | Christiaan Bezuidenhout 18/1 | Dan Bradbury 18/1 | Zander Lombard 18/1
Wilco Nienaber- To Win 40/1 | To Place 17/2
23-year-old Wilco Nienaber has largely underdelivered since his massive driving caught the imagination of the entire golfing world. His only victory thus far came at the Dimension Data Pro-Am (a Challenge Tour event). The wild South African just misses far too many cuts. But he does tend to have a special weekend in him every now and then. He finished in a tie for second at the Abu Dhabi Challenge in April and in a tie for fourth at the ISPA Handa World Invitational. I just look at his prodigious length and think that this could be the week for Nienaber to shine.
Renato Paratore- To Win 70/1 | To Place 15/1
Recent Q-School graduates thrived in Joburg last week and that has inspired me to go down that road in my longshot selection for these championships. Renato Paratore missed the cut in Joburg but none of last year’s SA Open protagonists performed that well in the preceding event. Paratore has shown an affinity for the course, finishing 15th here on debut last year. He is a classy player with two DP World Tour titles under his belt and I think he has a decent shot at placing this week.
The Man to Beat- Hennie du Plessis- To Win 22/1 | To Place 48/10
This is obviously an event that South Africans thrive in and du Plessis has developed a reputation as something of a SA Open specialist (he finished sixth in 2020, third in 2021 and ninth last year). He has also been in really good recent form. He finished in 10th place at Wentworth and followed that up with a top-15 finish at the Dunhill Links. He then enjoyed an excellent sixth place finish at a relatively star-studded Nedbank Challenge. The 27-year-old gives it a fair whack off the tee and he just seems to be trending well this week.