Author: Paul Atkin
Published: 09:30 06/01/2015
The European Tour 2015 campaign gets under way this week with the 104th edition of the South African Open, which returns the Glendower Golf Club in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng. This years renewal is being played in its new January slot, after being moved from its traditional pre-Christmas date on the schedule. The 7,564yd Par 72 venue, which last year hosted this event for the first time since 1997, has also been a regular stop on the Sunshine Tour for the BMG Classic, which has been played here since 2009. The course is a classic parkland track, and it has been prepared for this week with narrow fairways and quite penal rough,which with numerous water hazards should provide a decent test for the assembled field. Accuracy will be the key element required this week. Hot sunshine with possible thunderstorms, and only light breezes are forecast for the tournament.
The market is jointly headed by home favourites Branden Grace and Charl Schwartzel, both of whom have an obvious chance in this quality of field. Of the two main protagonists, I much prefer the chance of Branden Grace, who arrives here in better form, after winning his last start in the Alfred Dunhill Championship three weeks ago. Maybe the three week break will have freshened up Schwartzel, who ended last year in poor form, but the jury is still out for me, and I would need further evidence before I could recommend a punt on this normally classy performer.
We ended last year in good style, with returns in the Alfred Dunhill Championship on both David Drysdale (11-2) in the Top 10 market, and an each way return on Danny Willett (11-1), so lets hope we can start 2015 in style, with three home soil performers who have plenty of previous course form.
My main fancy is Darren Fichardt, who knows this track well, having played a lot of golf here in his amateur days. He also has course form at this track, having finished runner up here in the 2014 BMG Classic last October, and this demon putter (2nd in putting stats last year) has previously threatened to win this prestigious title on a couple of occasions. Although he only finished Tied 37th here last year, he battled back well after shooting a first round 77, so expect a bold show from this four time Tour winner.
Another fancy is the 2011 South African Open winner Hennie Otto, who missed a golden opportunity to win this title again last year. A poor back nine on Sunday afternoon from this volatile character, resulted in a Tied 2nd place finish, but he has proved in the past with a Tied 2nd place finish in the 2013 BMG Classic that he is certainly capable of winning around this track. His fairways and greens game should be well suited to this type of test.
An outsider who looks decent each way value, and definitely has the best course form in the field is Merrick Bremner. The 28 year old is a consistent performer on the Sunshine Tour, but more importantly he loves this venue. He won the previously mentioned 2014 BMG Classic in October, and has also finished 2nd in the BMG in 2012, and 4th in 2013. He finished a respectable Tied 17th place here in this event last year, so if he is going to have a chance to win his home Open, it will be surely be at his beloved Glendower.
Darren Fichardt 40-1E/W bet365
Hennie Otto 22-1 E/W bet365
Merrick Bremner 90-1 E/W bet365
Merrick Bremner 7-1 Top 10 market-Paddy Power