EW Terms: 1/5 Odds | 8 Places
Louis De Jager has been prominent in a couple of recent European Tour events, finishing tied 14th in late October's Portugal Masters after opening with a 63, and then closing with a 64 to take tied fourth - just one shot out of a playoff - in last month's Mauritius Open. Given that this is a home game, why is he 100/1? Course form would be one reason as he's not made the cut in the two recent tournaments played here - last year's South African Open and the 2017 Joburg Open. But his round scores of 70-70-71-71 across those two events were hardly disgraceful and he does have a tied 16th at this venue on his only other appearance (a 2010 Sunshine Tour outing). In terms of more recent form in South Africa, he's won two of his last six starts and, with Scrambling a key stat here, it's worth noting that De Jager was seventh in that category in Mauritius so he possesses a nifty short game.
Hotly tipped upon turning pro a year ago, Min Woo Lee is a popular pick to break through and win his first professional title in 2020. Having finished third in the Aussie PGA just before Christmas, he is fancied to hit the ground running. If we leave aside Lee's lack of previous form in South Africa, this particular test should very much play to his strengths. He hits it a mile off the tee and bombers often fare well here - see archetypal bomber Tapio Pulkkanen's third place in the Joburg Open and 15th in this event in 2018. That he ranked fourth in 2019 for Strokes Gained Around the Green is also very encouraging considering his lack of experience - scrambling is very important here at Randpark.
Given this week's South African Open is again staged at Randpark in Johannesburg, the 37- year-old Joburg-born, Shaun Norris, looks a solid proposition at 25/1 with eight places up for grabs. He's won in each of the last four years on the Japan Tour, he's finished third and fourth at Randpark previously, from just four starts, and he's been placed in each of his last four starts so he arrives in tip-top order. He also has some quite brilliant Scrambling stats, which, as highlighted in the main preview, is far and away the most important skillset requirement according to previous results here.
Haydn Porteous has plummeted to a lowly 545th in world golf rankings on the back of a pretty dire year on the European Tour. But he's a fine golfer on his day who has already racked up wins in Europe as well as his homeland. And at 25 I'll give him a chance to turn around a poor 2019 with a good showing in a tournament that takes place in his home city. There may be 220 golfers taking part this week but it's still a pretty shallow pool of talent and Porteous is more than capable of showing his class. My man finished the year with five cuts made and while he didn't do anything exceptional he at least made a top 20 in Thailand. A finish of seventh on this course back in 2018 shows he has the game to contend.
The South African contingent look very strong ahead of the first European Tour event of the decade, the South African Open in Johannesburg, and the man I really like is Christiaan Bezuidenhout. The 25-year-old enjoyed a superb 2019 with seven of his eight career-best performances - based on number of world ranking points won - all coming within the last 12 months, including winning the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama and finishing third at the BMW PGA Championship. So we know 'Rambo' is playing the best golf of his career and past results at this week's venue suggest Scrambling is going to be key, a skill set that Bezuidenhout ranks very highly in. The only one of his eight career-best performances that didn't come in 2019 actually came at this event in 2016 when he finished runner-up to Brandon Stone. We're at a different venue this week of course, but at least we know this rising star has what it takes to cope with the pressure of contending at his home Open.