The European Tour returns after the short winter break and once again we have an event in South Africa to get our teeth stuck into. It’s the third tournament to be held around the southern tip of Africa and there is one more next week before the Desert Swing gets underway. This week’s South African Open may be one of the oldest national golf tournaments in the world but it doesn’t quite have the same buzz about it as the Nedbank Golf Challenge, which closes out the calendar year.
You can always tell how well regarded a tournament is by looking at the field who are competing in it. The South African fans, who have not seen a home winner for three years, will be looking to the likes of Branden Grace, Jaco van Zyl and two time major champion Retief Goosen to arrest that run. Charl Schwartzel, who won the Alfred Dunhill Championship at the start of the year, will be a big miss due to illness.
As well as the big South African players, the course at the Glendower Golf Club will be one of the stars of the show. It is a classic parkland layout with trees lining the fairways, bunkers trapping wayward shots on the fairways and around the bunkers and water which is waiting to mess up scorecards on 11 of the holes. Golf is a hard sport but this is a relatively easy course which requires players to keep the ball out of trouble and hit greens in regulation.
Branden Grace is the pre-tournament favourite for this week’s tournament with the bookies and with good reason. At 14 in the world he is the highest ranked player in the field and although this event does not have the prestige of old it is still a big deal for South Africans to win it. In the past, home players have faltered here because of the weight of expectation but Grace has the mental fortitude for that not to be too much of an issue. Grace will challenge in the very biggest tournaments on both major tours this season and has all the quality to win here at 5/1 with BetVictor.
Another South African with a real chance here but at much bigger odds is Hennie Otto. Otto has already won this tournament once and so has shown that he can overcome the pressure. That win may have come around a different course but Otto grew up just around the corner from Glendower and he talks of playing here as “coming home”. The 39-year-old generally plays well here and is in with a great shout at 60/1 with Bet365.
For an even long odds shot at glory this week, try a small stakes bet on Merrick Bremner. The 29-year-old South African plays his golf on the Sunshine Tour but he shouldn’t be overly worried by the bigger names competing this week. He has won the BMG Classic at Glendower and at 29 will be looking for a breakout win in front of a global audience. Bremner will need his best stuff but at 150/1 with Betfred he’s worth a punt.