We take a look at the Sunshine Tour‘s Joburg Open taking place at Firethorn Course, Randpark Golf Course, Johannesburg.
Image Copyright – Steve Haag Sports
Firethorn Course, Randpark Golf Course, Johannesburg
19th- 23rd November
The European Tour heads to South Africa for three tournaments in the wake of last week’s Masters. This is actually a critical period in the calendar. The culmination of the South African Swing will see the top 60 in the Race to Dubai standings head to the season-ending DP World Championship. Ariel Canete won the inaugural staging of this event in 2007, with Indian Shubhankar Sharma winning the last edition in 2017. So, this marks a welcome return for the event during these Covid-affected times. In a change from previous events, the whole event this ear will take place at Firethorn. Not only did it host the last renewal of this event, it also hosted the last two SA Open Championships.
Firethorn was always a sterner test than Bushwillow. When it was still called Randpark it hosted both the 1995 and 2000 SA Opens. The course underwent significant changes prior to the 2017 renewal; though that did little to temper the scoring. While the course measures over 7,500 yards on paper, it’s worth remembering that it plays well above altitude. Birdies should be free-flowing at this relatively easy parkland style course. As always in these situations, it may turn into a putting contest come Sunday. Just look at what Branden Grace did at the last SA Open Championship.
This should be an interesting week as plenty of local talent goes up against a relatively weak European contingent. Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Brandon Stone are certainly two South African names that jump off the page. Garrick Higgo has made huge strides this year while Wilco Nienaber continues to frustrate with his bombastic length. Dean Burmester will be looking for a strong showing following an inconsistent season. Joost Luiten and Adri Arnaus are probably the most exciting European prospects. And looks out for longshots such as Zander Lombard and Justin Walters- both men capable of overperforming despite shocking form.
Past Course Winners
2020: Branden Grace (-21)
2018: Louis Oosthuizen (-18)
2017: Shubhankar Sharma (-23)
Betting Favourites (To Win)Christiaan Bezuidenhout (14/1)
Adri Arnaus (18/1)
Brandon Stone (20/1)
Matthew Jordan (20/1)
Adrian Otaegui (20/1)
Dean Burmester – To Win (33/1), To Place (7/1)Burmester arrives back home off an impressive 5th place finish at the Italian Open. The big-hitting South African has had two weeks off and should be feeling pretty refreshed heading into this week. He currently sits 36th in SG: Off the Tee and 22nd for Birdie Average. Those stats bode well for this course and in such a mediocre company. He finished 19th here back in 2017 though has missed the cut at both recent SA Open Championships. I’m really hoping that Burmester can find his best game this week and be in the running come Sunday.
Fabrizio Zanotti – To Win (50/1), To Place (11/1)Fabrizio Zanotti has been extremely consistent throughout his 13-year career on the European Tour. He does tend to prefer tree-lined parkland courses over most others. He did well at Wentworth recently and the Paraguayan should be well suited to this challenge. He has also won at Gut Larchenhof and secured second-place finishes at the likes of Woburn and Cataluyna. Past winners of this event have tended to fare well in Malaysia: Zanotti won there in 2017. I just have a gut feeling that Zanotti could use his experience to overperform in this depleted field.
The Man to Beat- Marcus Armitage- To Win (22/1), To Place (48/10)It’s always nice to see a player who slightly bucks the trend. Modern golfers tend to resemble faceless automatons in this day and age. Armitage isn’t shy of the odd errant swear-word or amusing anecdote. There’s something distinctly original about the Englishman. Armitage enters this event in hyper-consistent form: he has four consecutive top 15 finishes. He also happens to have two top-five finishes at this very course. He was tangentially embroiled in that megawatt shoot-out between Oosthuizen and Grace at the last SA Open. Armitage should be able to exploit this weakened field and finally crack the top five that has eluded him these past four events.
Written by Damien Kayat.