Personally I'm glad last weeks now out the way and golf on the European tour can return to normality for a while. The format was successful in creating added drama but for me there were certain elements like the 93yd play-off hole that just seemed wrong.
Thankfully the best golfer of the week Brett Rumford took the spoils and the glory. He led by 5 strokes after 54 holes and continued his form through the knockout match play to beat the extremely impressive 17 year old Kongwatmai in the finals.
Notable solid performances from Jordan Smith, Ryan Fox, Thomas Detry, Jeev M. Singh, Pep Angles and Duncan Stewart who all finished inside the top 25 and will be making another appearance this week at the Joburg Open.
Next Up - The Joburg Open
The European Tour returns to South Africa for the 3rd time this season where the Joburg Open will be competed for by a monster field of 210 players. There is a small splattering of household names competing, however a good number have jumped to the other side of the Pond to take on the PGA National and potentially dominate the field at the Honda Classic. Although recognised as a European Tour event, this is more of a Sunshine Tour field than anything else.
It will be the 11th straight year that this event has been played, usually dominated by its South African contingent and with the top 3 picking up guaranteed starts at The Open its an incredible opportunity for someone to step up and break through.
Steeped in history, The Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club is on of the most prestigious golf clubs in South Africa, it has hosted every edition of the Joburg Open and boasts two championship courses, the East Course and the West Course.
The East course being the stronger and tougher of the two layouts, a par 72 measuring 7,658 yards will be played 3 times by all that make the cut.
The West course still a solid test measures 7,203 yards and holds a par of 71 is only played once and traditionally is the course to get some exceptional scoring going.
I would expect both courses to play brutally long at times, especially with the current and continued downpours of rain they have been experiencing. Both courses have par 4's measuring above the 500 yard mark (3 on the east and 2 on the west) and each have a par 3 to test the long game one at 253 yards and the other at 234 yards. Of course tees could be pushed up to accommodate for the wet weather but having competed in Open Qualifying events myself and knowing the exacting standards of the R&A, all aspects of the game will be tested to its fullest and even the most simple of holes can be tricked up to cause problems for the inexperienced or unfortunate.
As previously mentioned were in for a wet week and there is again the potential for delays due to heavy thunderstorms. Its going to serve you well this week to pay close attention to the draw and the forecast.
2 courses in play for the opening 2 days and the West usually playing easier than the East, getting the right side o the draw could certainly help your chances of doing well in your drafts.
Strategy and Key Stats.
For me, driving distance accompanied with a decent level of accuracy from the tee will be a key element. The course has been soaked, the rain is forecast to continue falling and the course will play long. Getting the ball deep into the fairway will offer up loads of birdie chances or better especially with softer greens than usual offering up the chance to get approach shots in tighter to those tougher hole locations.
Also, as mentioned before, this is an Open Qualifying event so as the R&A would love to see the full game put to the test so getting through the cut in a monster field is going to test all components. Look for those in form players who tick boxes in a good percentage of all aspects of the game. "You don't have to be the best at anything, just incredible at everything."
Pay attention to the draw and the forecast, we have seen how advantageous it can be in recent events on both tours, and this week once again, could easily be the rare opportunity we hope to get to have a massive upper hand in our drafts.
Christiaan Bezuidehout - $7,500 - Finished T5 in his last 2 outings on the Sunshine Tour, in his last event if not for a disastrous +5 in his 3rd round would of walked away with a victory. Won Q-School in 2016, was rookie of the year 2016 and in great form coming into 2017. Very accurate off the tee, low scoring average and ticks many of the stats. 22nd here last year, 2nd and 37th the last 2 years in the South Africa open. I really fancy his chances to perform well here and maybe sneak a win.
Toby Tree - $6,800 - A regular on the Sunshine tour, knows the courses here well, has had some very nice recent form, T5 last week and a closing round of 63, also with the weather being very British the Englishman could feel even more at home here than he already does.
Dean Burmester - $9,ooo - Big Bombing Dean is one of my top picks, well priced, long and accurate off the tee and an exceptional putter, a bit o a birdie machine to say the least. This course could be absolutely perfect for some low scoring.
Jaques Blaauw - $7,500 - This guy loves his birdies or better, in great form on the Sunshine Tour and often a competitor for top spots, has the ability to go very low as he recently proved, there's a bit of buzz floating around that he will be one to watch.
George Coetzee - $10,600 - If George can get off to his usual blistering start and then hold it together for his final round he's surely in with a great chance of victory. Loves competing in front of his home fans, knocks the ball long from the tee, strings back to back birdies together but of late cant finish with a solid round, lets hope he cracks it this week.
Jordan Smith - $11,100 - With a lot of the big names missing this week could be a great opportunity for Jordan to capitalise, he is massively over priced compared to usual weeks, he has travelled and competed a lot but his form and ability is unquestionable. If you have room for his price then could be your most solid pick especially if most players put off by price.
Merrick Bremner - $5,800 - If your scrapping around at the very bottom of the barrel then Merrick could be your man. His name popped up in almost all stat categories, 9th in driving distance, 1st for Eagles, If he can string it all together could score well will just be keeping fingers crossed or a made cut.
Chris Swanepoel - $6,000 - Another name that kept popping up when checking through the stats. Tied 2nd last event with 4 solid rounds and the last being bogey free -6, came 53rd here last year but with confidence high hoping for much better
Thomas Aiken - $10,100 - Very disappointing trip to Malaysia, missing the cut by a stroke. However a player who's stats speak for himself, accurate in all departments, usually loves a good number of birdies or better, massively experienced at this course. I think hes great value for this event.
Others to watch for Thomas Detry $8,600, Ryan Fox $7,200, Dylan Frettelli $8,000. All coming off the back of recent good past events and starting to show signs of something big to come, could it be the Joburg Open title for one of these
Seeing as though I said earlier that the European Tour could dominate this week on the PGA Tour I thought I would share this draft with you as an added bonus.
Enjoy the golf on offer, lets hope for continued play and most important of all success in your drafts for both events.
Good luck to you all and don't forget to follow me @AshleyMorrisson