The European Tour stays in South Africa this week as it takes in the co-sanctioned Joburg Open. There's a huge field lining up on Thursday so it won't be easy to find the winner but read Steve's comprehensive preview here for all the angles in...
“Trevor Fisher Jnr is probably about as close as it gets to the identikit Joburg pick. He was third here in 2012 and sixth in 2013 so has previous event form. He’s already won a European Tour event (last year’s Africa Open), so that’s in his favour, and he finished eighth last week so at a push, you could argue he’s in decent form. Whether he’s value at 30.029/1 in a field of over 200 is highly debatable but I’ve thrown a few pounds in his direction.”
The Joburg Open has only been in existence since 2007 so this will be the 10th edition. It's always been co-sanctioned between the Sunshine Tour of South Africa and the European Tour and it's always been staged over two courses with a bumper field of over 200 competitors.
You can read our Joburg Open Betting Preview for the 2017 tournament behind the link.
Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club, Johannesburg, South Africa.
West Course Par 71, 7,203 yards
Stroke index in 2015 - 69.5
East Course Par 72, 7,658 yards
Stroke index in 2015 - 71.57
The unusually big field will play both the East and West Courses over the first two days with the weekend being played out entirely on the tougher East Course. The West Course is the shorter of the two and it usually plays around a couple of shots easier. There was differential of 2.07 strokes between the two courses last year, 1.72 strokes in 2014, but less than a stroke in 2013.
The Royal Johannesburg and Kensington is at altitude so although they look fairly long courses on paper, the ball travels around 10% further than it does at sea level.
Live on Sky Sports, all four days, starting at 08:30 (UK time) on Thursday.
Last Five Winners
2015 - Andy Sullivan -17
2014 - George Coetzee -19
2013 - Richard Sterne -27
2012 - Branden Grace -17
2011 - Charl Schwartzel -19
What will it take to win the Joburg Open?
For some reason, complete stats are only available for the last four editions and I'm not convinced that they can be entirely trusted. Did Andy Sullivan really win with a Scrambling ranking of 132nd?
If we can trust them, Greens In Regulation looks the most important stat with the last four winners ranking 4th, 13th, first and second
There are stats for how the players have fared on the par 3s, 4s and 5s going back over the last seven years and they're certainly compelling. Anders Hansen ranked second on the par 4s when he won here in 2009, the next five winners all ranked first, and last year's runner-up, Wallie Coetzee, ranked first.
Is There an Angle In?
Given this is a low-scoring birdie-fest; it's perhaps not surprising that the last six winners have all been bang in form. Prior to his victory last year, Andy Sullivan had won the South African Open and finished fourth in Abu Dhabi. George Coetzee finished fourth in Abu Dhabi and fifth in Qatar before finally breaking his duck here two years ago. Richard Sterne had finished runner-up to Stephen Gallacher in Dubai the week before he won in 2013.
Branden Grace, who, like Coetzee, was winning on the European Tour for the first time here, had finished an eye-catching 14th at the Africa Open the week before he won and Charl Schwartzel had been red-hot when he won this title in both 2010 and 2011. He won back-to-back in 2010, having won the Africa Open the previous week and he finished fourth in the Africa Open in 2011 before doubling up here.
That would suggest we need to be looking for someone in red-hot form but that does present something of a problem. The last three renewals have been played in February and the vast majority of the field had a bank of form to survey. With the switch back to mid-January, we only have last week's BMW South African Open form to ponder so it will be interesting to see if this week's winner played well at Glendower last week.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
Sullivan broke a stretch of five straight South African wins and six of the nine Joburg winners to date have been South Africans so sticking with the locals might be the safest way to play.
Ariel Canete was the surprise winner of the inaugural event but every other winner since has been well-fancied so concentrating on the head of the market might make sense.
Given Grace and Coetzee both got off the mark here, I wouldn't be averse to backing a South African maiden and Sullivan was winning for just the second time in his career when he took the title 11 months ago, so promising quality players have certainly shone here in the past.
Although the three winners prior to Sullivan were all within three of the lead after round one and within one after round two, this is an event where coming from off the pace is perfectly possible.
Having gone off at around 18.017/1 last year, Sullivan was matched in-running at 140.0139/1 after he opened up with a 72 around the trickier East Course. He was languishing in a tie for 114th and was nine off the lead after round one. That was one shot further adrift than the 2009 winner, Anders Hansen, but the Dane's win was perhaps even more remarkable given he was still eight back at halfway!
After a 65 in round two, Sullivan trailed by five at the halfway stage and he was still outside the top-20 and he was three adrift with a round to go but Coetzee in 2014, after a lacklustre third round trailed by four through 54 holes and so did the 2008 champ, Richard Sterne.
It's a tough one to gauge though as it's worth pointing out that the other six winners were all within a stroke of the lead with a round to go.
Despite still being in search of his first European Tour win, Jaco Van Zyl understandably heads the market in what is a really weak field. He's played in all nine renewals to date and he's finished inside the top-12 five times. Second last year and third in 2012 are the highlights and he is the most likely winner but I can't back him.
He's never been convincing in-contention and he choked last week after the first round! After an opening 65, that saw him take up the early running, he hit a desperately disappointing 78 in round two and that alone puts me off. He has won 13 times on the Sunshine Tour so he does know how to win but making the breakthrough on the European Tour is something he clearly struggles with.
Promising Englishman, Tyrrell Hatton, was second here two years ago on debut and 46th last year but he hasn't played since finishing a respectable 13th at the DP World Tour Championship in November so quite how well-prepared he'll be is unclear. He's also only ever won (twice) on the EuroPro Tour so like Van Zyl, he's looking to make his European Tour breakthrough.
Brandon Stone will have his supporters after last week's heroics and he wouldn't be the first South African to win back-to-back in his homeland. Richard Sterne and Charl Schwartzel have both done so in recent years and Grace followed his maiden win here with success at the Volvo Golf Champions in 2012. It's a big ask but young Stone might prove to be every bit as classy as though three in the fullness of time and he shouldn't be readily dismissed here. To say he has nothing to lose after claiming his national title is a sizeable understatement.
Last year's Challenge Tour star, Ricardo Gouveia, looks destined for the top but he's playing in the event for the first time and wasn't in the field last week so is perhaps best watched this week.
We have no complete stats to ponder, no bank of recent form to peruse, no high class players at the head of the market to back with confidence, no clear in-running trends and over 200 competitors. It doesn't get much trickier than this and I'm keeping stakes to an absolute minimum. I couldn't find anyone that I wanted to side with - with confidence before the off but I have played five to really tiny stakes.
The aforementioned Stone will feel like he's running free after Sunday's success and at 22 years of age, he should be capable of recovering from any excess celebrations.
George Coetzee was very poor last week on his return from injury (missing the cut) but with his class and course form he's hard to discount.
Trevor Fisher Jnr is probably about as close as it gets to the identikit Joburg pick. He was third here in 2012 and sixth in 2013 so has previous event form. He's already won a European Tour event (last year's Africa Open), so that's in his favour, and he finished eighth last week so at a push, you could argue he's in decent form. Whether he's value at 30.029/1 in a field of over 200 is highly debatable but I've thrown a few pounds in his direction.
I've also had tiny bets on last week's runner-up, Christiaan Bezuidenhout and on the hugely promising Paul Dunne. Bezuidenhout did nothing wrong last week and could go one better this and Dunne could be under the radar and eager to get going having had to withdraw due to illness before the off last week.
Brandon Stone @ 28.027/1
George Coetzee @ 30/1 (Sportsbook)
Trevor Fisher Jnr @ 30.029/1
Christiaan Bezuidenhout @ 55.054/1
Paul Dunne @ 85.084/1
I'll be back later with a preview of the EurAsia Cup.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter