The European Tour made history with some of its recent events. In Thailand and in India they co-sanctioned events with the Asian Tour which have never before appeared on the European Tour’s schedule. The next few events are also co-sanctioned – this time with the Sunshine Tour – but the tournaments are much more familiar to players and fans alike. This will be the ninth edition of the Joburg Open in a row and it is held over the two courses at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.
The East Course measures a tough 7,600 yards and is perhaps best known for the signature 10th and 11th holes. These brutes are thought to be the longest back-to-back par fours in world golf, coming in at a combined yardage of well over 900 yards. The West Course is a few hundred yards shorter and offers a tantalising risk-reward challenge. They both play to a level par of 72 but scoring is generally lower on the West Course. Make sure to make a note of that if you look to get involved in-play at any stage. If a player is making headway on the field and is on the East Course, you know he has an advantage going into his next round.
Since the event has been included on the European Tour, South African golfers have dominated. Six of the tournament winners since 2007 were playing on home territory. It makes sense then, that defending champion George Coetzee is the bookies’ favourite. Coetzee has yet to record a top-ten finish this season even in the recent Dimension Data Pro-Am which took place in South Africa. He will be disappointed if he doesn’t challenge here but it seems prudent to look to other challengers this week.
The first contender of note is the promising Tyrrell Hatton. The 23-year-old has been ever-improving having come from the Challenge Tour last season. He finished tied second at last year’s Joburg Open and is an unflappable character. At 33/1 with Ladbrokes his price appeals for an each-way bet.
Next, we look to a South African to do the job on home soil. Thomas Aiken has never won this tournament even though he has the tools to shoot a low score on both courses. He did hold the lead last season but a final round of 74 saw him finish tied-fifth. The 31-year-old has 11 professional wins so he knows what to do to combat Sunday nerves and is therefore recommended at 25/1 with Coral.
Another player who finished tied for fifth place in the 2014 event was Andy Sullivan. The 28-year-old Englishman has already won on the Sunshine Tour this year when he scooped the prize in January’s South African Open by chasing down Charl Schwartzel who had a seven-shot lead. He also has a top-five place on the European Tour in 2015 at the Dubai Desert Classic. Sullivan is a player in form so Bet365’s 16/1 for him to win is very appealing.
The final bet is a long-shot. Matthew Fitzpatrick only turned professional this season and therefore needs to qualify for the 2015 Open, a tournament in which he made the cut as an amateur. He’s displayed decent form so far and will be chasing the Open spot that winning the Joburg Open guarantees. At 150/1 generally, he is good value for a final each-way bet.