Joburg Open Each-Way Tips: The Hend is nigh

Scott Hend Joburg
Scott Hend seeks a fourth European Tour title.

The European Tour begins a three week South African swing with the Joburg Open and Matt Cooper has three each-way selections from Randpark GC with the Betfair Sportsbook paying seven places...

"It's something of a curiosity that, although the 47-year-old has always been tagged a big-hitter, he tends to thrive when within the trees"

Back Scott Hend each-way @ 80/1

Main Bet: Scott Hend each-way @ 80/1

It's tempting to place the most recent results of Australian veteran Scott Hend into three categories - the good, the bad and the ugly.

We'll take them in reverse order and start with missed cuts at The Belfry and Winged Foot that can't be sugar-coated, both being rubber-stamped by second rounds of 84; the only good news is that they were two months ago and he's played better since.

The middle section is the bad but, crucially, I'd argue it is a little deceptively so, taking in a missed the cut in the Scottish Championship at Fairmont St Andrews and T59th in the Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club.

On the face of it, nothing to write home about.

But this is a fellow born and brought up in Queensland where folk take surfboards and eskies to the beach, not flasks of tea and tartan blankets; that he has struggled when bashing balls on bleak British coastlines is not exactly a great surprise.

He's played 23 strokeplay links tournaments and landed just the one top 30; moreover, the weekend he played at the Renaissance was just his sixth in all those attempts so it almost counts as a success.

And then there is the undeniably good: the results which require no explanation.

At Galgorm Castle in the Irish Open he spent all week in the top 15 when landing T11th and the same thing happened at Wentworth in the BMW PGA Championship, with the slight difference that he finished one place better in a tie for tenth.

Both those tracks were among the trees and in-land, along the lines of the test he'll encounter this week at Randpark GC in Johannesburg.

In fact, it's something of a curiosity that, although the 47-year-old has always been tagged a big-hitter, he tends to thrive when within the trees.

His last European Tour win was in the 2019 Malaysian Championship at Saujana, his first triumph on the circuit was the Hong Kong Open, and in-between he was twice defeated in a play-off at Crans in the European Masters.

Those latter efforts came with the boost of altitude, a factor also at play this week on the high veldt.

He's yet to land a top ten in South Africa, but this is largely because he's relatively inexperienced there, with just three recent starts in the Nedbank Challenge and four regular event appearances a decade ago.

It's notable because he's performed so well elsewhere - by my reckoning he's landed a top ten in no less than 27 countries worldwide.

I think his form is a little hidden ahead of this week and the ten-time Asian Tour winner (three of those co-sanctioned with the European Tour) can put up a good fight and even end it in some style.

Next Best: Alex Levy each-way @ 50/1

It's been a bleak couple of seasons for the excitable Frenchman Alex Levy who landed a fifth European Tour win in early 2018 and was asked a few weeks later at Wentworth how he felt about the prospect of representing Europe on home soil in the Ryder Cup.

His smiling face was suddenly strained.

Playing in Paris was a wonderful prospect, but he was wary of placing pressure on himself or of being yoked to the burden of his nation's desire either.

It didn't help that he revealed he was in the process of making changes to his swing, believing that to take a step-up in class from European Tour winner he needed to alter a few factors.

The net result was a top ten drought in the rest of 2018, just two of them in 2019 and his first in 2020 was in his last start at the Cyprus Showdown.

He briefly threatened to win that new event during the final day, but scores of 67-66-66-68 were a real fillip and came after earlier signs of growing confidence which included making the cut at Wentworth followed by T16th in the Scottish Championship, all the while recording improving stats (both traditional and Strokes Gained).

alex levy.jpg

I wouldn't entirely rule out the value of the location of that last win two and a half years ago either.

It came at Royal Dar es Salam in Morocco and during that week South African golfers frequently mentioned that they feel right at home there, because both the trees that line the fairways and the grainy grass on the greens feel very familiar for Johannesburg natives.

Final Bet: Fabrizio Zanotti each-way @ 40/1

I've always had quite a bit of time for the neat and tidy Paraguayan Fabrizio Zanotti for whom this year is a 13th on the European Tour, testament to his both his ability and consistency.

What's often been striking is that he enjoys certain conditions and is notably less keen on others.

He loves tree-lined parkland tracks and re-iterated it on his belated re-appearance post-lockdown when he followed three solid laps of Galgorm Castle in the Irish Open with a fine 63 to grab a share of seventh.

He's traditionally been rather more lacklustre on linksland. Indeed, with the unlikely exception of a runner-up finish at Royal Portrush in the 2012 Irish Open, he has a dismal record by the seaside.

Which makes the fact that he opened the Scottish Open with rounds of 69-67 to find himself in the top ten heading into the weekend something of a rarity, even if he did finish no better than T48th.

Back within the woods at Wentworth he made a seventh cut there and now Randpark offers more of what he likes: he's claimed victory at Gut Larchenhof, notched second-places at Woburn, PGA Catalunya and Hilversumsche, and thirds at Milano and Prosper.

The final point may or may not prove to be coincidence, but past winners on this week's test include Retief Goosen, Louis Oosthuizen and Shubhankar Sharma, all of whom have exceptional records (including wins) in Malaysia - tree-lined courses, sticky rough, grainy greens - and Zanotti was a winner there in 2017.

Staked: 84pts
Returned: 59pts
P/L: -25pts

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