Christiaan Bezuidenhout did well last week to hold his nerve when all others faltered. Leopard Creek is a tempestuous mistress and made for fascinating viewing.
This week takes us to extremely familiar surroundings (though the context is anything but familiar). Gary Player Country Club usually plays host to the illustrious Nedbank Golf Challenge.
But that event was scrapped due to the pandemic, and it now plays host to the 2nd oldest national golf event in the world: the SA Open. This also happens to be the 2nd SA Open of the year, with Branden Grace putting the lights out at Randpark earlier this year.
Damien Kayat writes that the SA Open has slowly lost some lustre over the years. This week will be doubly depressing, as the Nedbank Golf Challenge is usually able to entice some of the biggest European names.
The European Tour is hosting concurrent events this week (one in Dubai and here in Sun City). Both events will have equal prize money and yield the same Race to Dubai points. This notoriously long course is one of the most iconic venues on the European Tour.
The Parkland track will pose many questions to the players. The fairways are narrow and the smaller-than-average bentgrass greens are well protected. The kikuyu rough can be positively brutal, should players choose to abandon restraint off the tee.
Strong approach play will be essential while familiarity with the course has often proved crucial here. So, look towards GIR and scrambling stats. The length is also slightly deceptive, as the event is played at altitude.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout will look to make it back-to-back titles at home this week. But unspectacular course form should make him a name to swerve this week. PGA Tour winner Dylan Frittelli had an exceptional week in Augusta, ultimately finishing in 5th place.
Wilco Nienaber and Brandon Stone underline the strength of the local contingent. Matthias Schwab has had an inconsistent year while Jamie Donaldson has seemingly emerged from nowhere to recapture some form. Dean Burmester has prodigious length off the tee but needs to tighten up his short game.
- Past Five Winners (SA Open)
- 2020: Branden Grace (-21)
- 2018: Louis Oosthuizen (-12)
- 2017: Chris Paisley (-21)
- 2016: Graeme Storm (-18) *playoff
- 2015: Brandon Stone (-14)
Betting Favourites (To Win): Christiaan Bezuidenhout (15/2), Dylan Frittelli (9/1), Wilco Nienaber (14/1), Brandon Stone (14/1), Matthias Schwab (20/1)
Scott Jamieson- To Win (20/1), To Place (44/10)
Scott Jamieson is a player who loves playing in South Africa. His sole European Tour win came at the 2012 Nelson Mandela Championship. He also crucially has a 2nd place finish on this course in the 2017 Nedbank Golf Challenge.
He also possesses three top 5 finishes at the Alfred Dunhill Championship. He finished 6th last week at Leopard Creek and he currently sits on the periphery of the Race to Dubai top 60. So, there should be no shortage of motivation for a man who simply loves playing in South Africa.
Richard McEvoy- To Win (225/1), To Place (46/1)
I know what you must be thinking: I’ve taken leave of all my senses. Richard McEvoy hasn’t been the same man since miraculously holding off Bryson DeChambeau in the 2018 European Open. But it is easy forget that he was 3rd at the halfway mark in the Cyprus Open.
He then followed a decent 42nd place in Joburg with an improved 25th at Leopard Creek. But what was more appealing than his finish were his stats. He ranked 1st in Driving Accuracy and 6th for Greens in Regulation. He was also amazingly 2nd in scrambling. Those should prove the key stats this week, making him a tantalizing prospect in the place markets.
The Man to Beat- Wilco Nienaber- To Win (14/1), To Place (3/1)
Perhaps this seems like a slightly cowardly turn. To use the seemingly ludicrous McEvoy choice to hide a real favourite. But Wilco Nienaber’s trajectory just looks set for eventual victory. By now everyone has seen him hit that ridiculous 439-yard bomb at the Joburg Open.
He finished in runner-up spot that week, finally adding that bit of finesse to his ludicrous driving ability. The 20-year-old sensation followed that up with a solid tie for 12th last week. I think the reason I’m leaning Nienaber this week is par 5 scoring. When Fleetwood won the Nedbank Golf Challenge, he shot 16 under on the par 5’s.
Image Copyright – Steve Haag Sports