Thriston Lawrence has won the DP World Tour's first event of the new season after bad weather and covid causes chaos...
"With a flooded course, no sight of an improvement in the weather, and a number of players desperate to get home, the organisers took the frustrating but logical decision to declare the result after 36 holes."
After last week's final European Tour event of the 2021 season - the DP World Tour Championship - finished so dramatically, with world number two, Collin Morikawa, swooping late on to catch a stuttering Rory McIlroy, hopes were high that the new season would kick off with a bang, but it's been the soggiest of damp squibs unfortunately.
Thriston Lawrence kicked off the event with a six-under-par 65 to sit alongside Spain's Angel Hidalgo but the event was already in a mess on day one.
South Africa being put on the Red List after the spread of the new Omicron covid variant in the region caused a raft of withdrawals with British players understandably desperate to get home before the requirement to isolate on return became mandatory on Sunday and play was suspended thanks to dangerous weather.
Friday morning saw the tournament begin to get back on track and Lawrence kicked clear with a second successive 65 but yet again the threat of lightening saw a further suspension and with the covid situation a huge issue, the tournament organiser put out the following statement.
The DP World Tour, formally known as the European Tour, along with the Sunshine Tour and city of Johannesburg decided on Friday to shorten the Joburg Open to 54-holes in an effort "to help non-South African resident players, caddies, and tournament support staff return to their home countries."
I updated the In-Play blog for the final time on Friday evening and went to bed expecting to enjoy the third and final round on Saturday afternoon, but it wasn't to be.
Play resumed on Saturday morning and the second round was completed but for the third time in three days, play was once again stopped with the leaders having played just two holes of the third round.
With a flooded course, no sight of an improvement in the weather, and a number of players desperate to get home, the organisers took the frustrating but logical decision to declare the result after 36 holes.
A tough break for the likes of Zander Lombard, Shaun Norris and Ashley Chesters, who were all within touching distance if the leader had faltered but it was a great break for Lawrence, who wasn't well fancied before the off.
Lawrence was matched at a high of 450.0449/1 when the market first opened, and he was generally a 230.0229/1 chance before the off with form figures reading MC-MC-MC-6.
Neither of my two pre-event picks performed well, although they were both drawn AM-PM, which transpired to be the wrong side of the draw, but I got very lucky during the night.
As highlighted in the In-Play Blog, I was tempted to back the leader at 1.84/5 so when I woke in the night to see him trading at 1.910/11, I took the plunge.
Backed Lawrence at all 1.9. Simply too big given the stats. The Punter's In-Play Blog: All change at the Joburg https://t.co/e2dvBhNMLb? Steve Rawlings (@SteveThePunter) November 27, 2021
The proportion of my bet that got matched after the second round had finished was cancelled but just to get some matched before the 36 holes were played was very fortunate.
Lawrence was still trading at around that price after the second round had concluded, assumingly because Shaun Norris had picked up a stroke to get to within five, and when play was suspended after he'd played the first two holes of round three in one-over-par, he was trading at odds-on still but only just.
Something to bear in mind
It didn't even cross my mind in the small hours that the tournament may be reduced to 36 holes, so I really did get lucky but it's something to bear in mind in future.
It's happened a number of times before on various Tours and backing the leader just before the round finishes, even if you then lay the bet back once the next round starts, is a great tactic.
In this instance, any bets struck while the second round was ongoing stood but all bets afterwards were voided.
I'm not yet sure what's happening next week. The South African Open is now solely a Sunshine Tour event so whether it's live on Sky or whether I preview it or not is up in the air at present, but I will be back on Monday or Tuesday with a preview of the PGA Tour event - the Hero World Challenge.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter
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