Great event for outsiders
Greens In Regulation the key stat
Will another European claim the title
Just days after Nicolai Hojgaard won the final event of the 2022/23 DP World Tour season, the DP World Tour Championship, and Rory McIlroy claimed the Race to Dubai crown for a fifth time, the new season kicks off with not one, but two events.
Matt Cooper will be previewing the Australian PGA Championship, which has a decent line-up that includes the defending champ, Cam Smith, Min Woo Lee and Adam Scott, and I'm going to concentrate on the first of three events to be staged before Christmas that are co-sanctioned with the Sunshine Tour in South Africa - the Joburg Open.
Ariel Canete won the first edition of the Joburg Open in 2007 and it was an ever-present on the DP World Tour up until 2017, when there were two editions - one in February and one in December.
It was lost from the schedule for a couple of years before J.B Hansen won in 2020, and the 2021 edition, which also kicked off the new DP World Tour season, was a bit of a farce.
To allow international players to travel back home in time because of COVID-19 travel restrictions in place in the UK from South Africa, the event was originally shortened to 54 holes, but rain and the threat of lightning curtailed the event further to just 36 holes.
Triston Lawrence lifted the trophy after a pair of six-under-par 65s around the Firethorn Course at Randpark.
The tournament moved to Houghton Golf Club last year when Dan Bradbury caused a bit of a shock in just his third DP World Tour event - winning wire-to-wire at 550.0549/1.
Houghton Golf Club, Lower Houghton, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Par 72 7,241 yards
Stroke Average in 2022 - 70.77
Houghton is a traditional tree-lined undulating parkland course with fairly generous fairways and bentgrass greens.
Water is frequently in play, but the course doesn't play anywhere near as long as its yardage suggests as it sits at over 5000 feet above sea level and the ball travels around 10% further.
Houghton has a rich history, hosting the South African Open eight times, as well as the South African PGA Championship at the end of the last century, when known as the Alfred Dunhill South African PGA Championship.
The likes of Nick Price, Tony Johnstone and Ernie Els all won the PGA Championship at Houghton before Alfred Dunhill ended its association with the event to begin its own tournament- the Alfred Dunhill Championship in 2000.
The first five editions of the Alfred Dunhill Championship were all staged here before the tournament moved to its now permanent home at Leopard Creek.
For more on the course, please see the course layout on Houghton's website here.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 10:00 on Thursday
Last Six Winners with Pre-event Prices
- 2022 - Dan Bradbury -21 550.0549/1
- 2021 - Triston Lawrence -12 (36 holes) 230.0229/1
- 2020 - JB Hansen -19 60.059/1
- 2018 - 2019 - No tournament
- 2017 (Dec') - Shubhankar Sharma -23 150.0149/1
- 2017 (Feb') - Darren Fichardt -15 160.0159/1
- 2016 - Haydn Porteous -18 190.0189/1
What Will it Take to Win the Joburg Open?
There were no traditional stats produced for half of the field last year for some reason, and that included the winner, Bradbury, and what was produced doesn't look quite right.
As many as three of the top-15 ranked tied first for Greens In Regulation so I'm really not sure we can trust the figures at all but we do have some old data to plough through...
It's old form now but for what it's worth, here are the stats (where available) for the top-three and ties for the five editions of the Alfred Dunhill Championship staged at Houghton.
2004 Dunhill Championship at Houghton
- 1st Marcel Siem -22 DD - 1 DA - 61 GIR - 5 SC -9 PA - 7
- 2nd Gregory Havret -22 DD - 18 DA - 6 GIR - 39 SC - 8 PA - 1
- 2nd Raphael Jacquelin -22 DD - 12 DA - 27 GIR - 1 SC - 18 PA - 5
2003 Dunhill Championship at Houghton
- 1st Mark Foster -15 DD - 17 DA - 21 GIR - 14 SC -n/a PA - n/a
- 2nd Anders Hansen -15 DD - 43 DA - 9 GIR - 5 SC -n/a PA - n/a
- 2nd Trevor Immelman -15 DD - 14 DA - 9 GIR - 30 SC -n/a PA - n/a
- 2nd Paul Lawrie -15 DD - 15 DA -58 GIR - 14 SC -n/a PA - n/a
- 2nd Doug McGuigan -15 No stats available
- 2nd Bradford Vaughn -15 No stats available
2002 Dunhill Championship at Houghton
- 1st Justin Rose -20 No stats available
- 2nd Retief Goosen -18 No stats available
- 2nd Mark Foster -18 No stats available
- 2nd Martin Martinez -18 No stats available
2001 Dunhill Championship at Houghton
- 1st Adam Scott -21 DD - 7 DA - 17 GIR - 5 SC -43 PA - 22
- 2nd Justin Rose -20 DD - 3 DA - 10 GIR - 12 SC - 9 PA - 19
- 3rd Nick Faldo -19 DD - 50 DA - 20 GIR - 13 SC - 2 PA - 1
- 3rd Dean Robertson -19 DD - 41 DA - 4 GIR - 8 SC - 9 PA - 6
2000 Dunhill Championship at Houghton
- 1st Anthony Wall -12 DD - 26 DA - 17 GIR - 4 SC -21 PA - 1
- 2nd Gary Orr -10 DD - 33 DA - 3 GIR - 2 SC - 30 PA - 33
- 3rd Phillip Price -10 DD - 53 DA - 38 GIR - 19 SC - 16 PA - 9
- DD - Driving Distance
- DA - Driving Accuracy
- GIR - Greens In Regulation
- SC - Scrambling
- PA - Putting Accuracy
With the rough down, Marcel Siem was able to bully his way to victory off the tee, ranking first for distance and only 61st for accuracy and (where stats were available) all the winners ranked highly for Driving Distance.
There were no stats in 2002 but given he ranked third for DD in 2001 when finishing second, it's probably safe to assume that Justin Rose was getting it out there off the tee when he won here.
The worst any of the winners ranked for Greens In Regulation is 14th and they all putted nicely.
Is There an Angle In?
South Africans tend to do really well in their homeland, but Europeans fare really well at this particular venue.
Englishman, Bradbury, won here last year and the five editions of the Alfred Dunhill here were won by four Europeans and an Aussie.
The Alfred Dunhill South African PGA Championship winners here at the end of the last century - Nick Price, Tony Johnstone, and Ernie Els - are all out of the top drawer and US Masters winners, Nick Faldo, Trevor Immelman and Adam Scott have all finished inside the first three places.
In addition to Augusta form, there's plenty of evidence to suggest that Houghton correlates nicely with another tree-lined track - Wentworth - which hosts the BMW PGA Championship each year.
This event is clearly not that strong so we won't find much Augusta form to ponder but anyone that's played well at Wentworth, or any other tree-lined track, will command respect and if they're European, given the past results at the track, that's worth an extra tick.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
Denmark's J.B Hansen was a 60.059/1 chance three years ago so he couldn't be considered one of the fancied runners and five of the last six winners have begun the event trading at a triple-figure price so it's been a fantastic tournament for outsiders of late, wherever it's been staged.
Justin Rose started slowly when winning here in 2002. He sat tied for 52nd and five off the lead after round one and Mark Foster trailed by the same margin in 2003 but all the other course winners have started smartly.
Siem was tied for the lead after round one in 2004, and having sat second after the opening day, both Els and Johnstone led all the way from halfway.
Bradbury won wire-to-wire last year and the top-five were all inside the top-four and ties at the halfway stage so concentrating on the very top of the leaderboard from a long way out might pay dividends.
It's not a tough track and Bradbury got it to double-digits under-par last year but it' has a bit of a tricky finish. The par four 15th was the toughest hole on the course last year - averaging 4.47 - and the par three 16th and par four 18th ranked as the fifth and seventh hardest.
The first three in the betting are all South Africans and the first two in the betting - Dean Burmester and Branden Grace - both now ply their trades on the LIV Golf Tour.
Burmester hasn't been sighted since finishing 17th in the LIV Golf Jeddah event last month and he makes no appeal at all on his first appearance at the track.
Grace has had a slightly better year on the LIV Tour than Burmester but he too is playing Houghton for the first time and he appears to be cooling off somewhat.
Since finishing sixth in New Jersey in August, he's finished 29th in Chicago and 27th in Jeddah and he didn't impress a fortnight ago in the Nedbank where rounds of 72-70-74-75 saw him finish down the field in 43rd.
Last year's favourite, Joburg resident, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who was a 7/18.00 chance 12 months ago when finishing third, makes plenty of appeal.
In addition to winning the Andalucía Masters at tree-lined Valderrama, Bez has finished no worse than 44th in three visits to Augusta and he has Wentworth form figures reading 3-40-5 so it was no surprise to see him take to the venue.
He won the Alfred Dunhill Championship and the South African Open back-to-back in his homeland three years ago and he finished sixth in the Sanderson Farms Championship on the PGA Tour in his penultimate start.
The defending champ, Bradbury, is considerably shorter than he was 12 months ago but he arrives in fair form having finished sixth in the Open de Espana, 13th in the Andalucia Masters, fifth in the Nedbank and 17th last week in Dubai in his last four starts.
I haven't dipped into the market yet but I'll update if and when I do and I'll definitely have a couple of outsiders in this event for the Find Me a 100 Winner column tomorrow.
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