|Branden Grace to win the tournament||12/1||Bet365|
|Shaun Norris to win the tournament||40/1||Ladbrokes|
A slight change for the South African Open this year as it retains its title, but is supported by the City of Johannesburg and as a consequence gains the format and host venue of the old Joburg Open.
Both courses at Randpark GC (the longer Firethorn and the shorter Bushwillow) are used pre-cut before the field settles down on Firethorn at the weekend. Here are five of the field to consider.
The South African 30-year-old is a high quality performer. He’s an eight-time winner on the European Tour, one-time champion on the PGA Tour and five times he has finished top six in major championships. But in European Tour/Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned tournaments? He’s dynamite.
In 17 of his last 20 starts in such events he has claimed top 20 finishes, nine of them top five and four of them wins. The big question mark is his form because he hasn’t made a top five since going back-to-back in May.
Admittedly he was T11th in the Nedbank Challenge last month, but he’d finished fourth, third and first there in the previous three years. He’s 12/1 with Bet365 in the outright market.
The Finn has enjoyed two superb seasons and he has no plans to stop there. He jumped from the Challenge Tour as the number one ranked player in 2017 and quickly found his feet at the top table, leading last year’s Joburg Open on this course at halfway before recording third.
Later in the season a fourth place in the Dunhill Links Championship confirmed his card for this season and he rode the wave with a lucrative T10th in the Turkish Airlines Open where he revealed that he is goal-driven and having ticked two goals in as many years (graduation and card-retention) his hat-trick would be a win on the European Tour. A return to Randpark might suit him and he’s 90/1 with 888Sport.
Like Pulkkanen this is a golfer who has enjoyed the last two years. He graduated from the Challenge Tour in third spot behind the Finn and then recorded an even better rookie campaign which included five top tens.
The first of those was when he was second on this course last December as the Johannesburg resident felt right at home. He closed out 2018 with T26th in the DP World Tour Championship and badly needed a rest.
He took two weeks off and can now look to add a win to his consistency. He likes a fast start. No less than 11 times last season he was within three shots of the first-round lead (remember, however, this week two courses are in operation which will impact on that market). He’s available at 33/1 with Bet365.
With the exception of 2011, when he finished 49th on the Race to Dubai, the Italian has struggled to turn solid second-tier form into main tour consistency, but he’s always been highly thought of within the Italian coaching set up and his graduation from the Challenge Tour last year was fuelled by victory in the Kenyan Open, an event played at altitude on traditional courses so a good pointer towards this week.
Moreover his best ever finish on the European Tour was second in the Madrid Masters (also at altitude) and he was ninth in this event in 2013. He missed the cut in Mauritius last week but was T20th the week before among the trees in Hong Kong. He’s worth keeping an eye out for in specialist markets, but is also 350/1 with 888Sport.
In the last three seasons the South African’s hard work and graft has finally reaped reward, after years of ploughing a furrow just about anywhere in the world where a tournament was played. Over ten years ago he was trying his hand on the third tier Europro Tour, trawling round corporate golf resorts in the UK.
A year on the European Tour in 2011 was little short of disastrous in Europe itself: 14 starts, one cut made (T78th, weekend rounds of 82-80). But he won on the Asian Tour in 2015 and 2016, then on the Japan Tour in 2017 and again this year.
With that success it looks like he is getting to grips with European Tour co-sanctioned events in his homeland. He was third on this course last year, T20th in the South African Open which followed and T8th after 54 holes of the Tshwane Open. He’s 40/1 with Ladbrokes.