The European Tour is always rejigging its schedule and this season they have kicked off with four back to back events in South Africa the last of which, the Joburg Open, takes place this week. The event is now a mainstay on both the European and Sunshine Tours and apart from the slight change in date little has changed for this year’s renewal.
Once again there is a ridiculously large field of 200 players who will complete two rounds at the Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club, one around the East Course and one around the slightly easier West Course. Both the layouts are long tracks (7,677 and 7,228 yards respectively) but Johannesburg is 6,000 feet above sea level so the ball travels roughly 10% further through the air, tempering that distance. Even so, big hitters have tended to do well at this event but when it comes to picking a winner a high greens in regulation percentage is the key stat to look out for.
This may not be the best tournament of the year but last year it proved to be an incredibly important one for Andy Sullivan. The Englishman won his second tournament of the year here and used that win as a springboard to a season in which he really announced himself to the world of golf. There are plenty of players in the field this week who will be aiming for something similar.
Of those who could secure their breakthrough win, Tyrrell Hatton looks best placed. He is now an established European Tour player but just needs that win to feel completely at home. His best finish on Tour so far came at the 2014 Joburg Open when he tied for second but there have been a number of other tournaments which he would have won but for the odd poor shot or bit of bad luck. To have the sort of successful career that he craves Hatton will have to keep a lid on his temper which can flare up on occasion on the course but he’s got the skills needed to win an event of this calibre at odds of 22/1 with Bet365.
It is a surprise to see Brandon Stone available at odds of 25/1 with Coral. The South African won his maiden European Tour event last week, which was his second win in three starts in his homeland. In those tournaments he’s not ranked outside the top 10 in terms of greens hit in regulation while averaging over 300 yards with his driver. Stone’s finished in the top 20 here before and his chances must be respected.
The American Paul Peterson has travelled the globe for his shot at the professional ranks, impressing on the Asian Tour in the past few years. He tweeted how happy he is to be heading to South Africa for a chance on the European Tour and he could just well spring a surprise in the Joburg Open. Peterson will go about his business under the radar this week and at 150/1 with Coral he looks a great each-way shout.