This is just the sixth staging of the Africa Open, another event co-sanctioned between the European and Sunshine Tours.
East London G C, East London, South Africa
Par 73, 6691 yards
Stroke index in 2012 - 70.79
East London is a traditional, coastal, old course dating right back to 1893. The greens are small, slightly undulating and layed down to Sea Dwarf Seashore Paspalum -running quite slowly at around 9.5 on the stimpmeter. The Kikuya fairways are tree-lined and the rough is described as dense and penal. There are no water hazards and the course's main defence is the coastal winds. It's very short by modern standards and open to low scoring in benign conditions.
Live on Sky Sports - 8.30am Thursday and Friday and 11.00am Saturday and Sunday.
Last Five Winners
2011 - Louis Oosthuizen -27
2011 - Louis Oosthuizen -16 (Playoff)
2010 - Charl Schwartzel -20
2009 - Retief Goosen -21
2008 - Shaun Norris -13 (played at Fish River)
What will it take to win the Africa Open?
A neat and tidy game to avoid the rough and find the small greens and an ability to handle blustery conditions are what's required here.
Is there an angle in?
There's clearly a link between East London and Golf du Palais Royal in Morocco, home of the Trophee Hassan II. A number of players have fared well at both venues - finishing in the top-ten or so at both events. Louis Oosthuizen was narrowly beaten in Morocco by Rhys Davies in 2010 and he's won the last two renewals of this event and last year's Trophee Hassan II winner, Michael Hoey, finished second here in 2009.
Hoey has also won at Oitavos Dunes in Portugal, another very similar venue and I also fancy a look at the result of last year's Irish Open at Portrush may provide clues also. That too is a short, wind-affected course and it's interesting to see that Portrush winner, Jamie Donaldson, has a fair record at both Oitavos Dunes and Golf du Palais Royal.
Is there an identikit winner?
The three men to win the four renewals at East London are all South African major winners so all you have to do is find one in this year's line-up. Unfortunately you won't. This is a very weak field and the closet anyone in the line-up has come to major success is Gregory Havret, who finished second to Graeme McDowell in the US Open in 2010.
The fact alone tells us something though - that this is a place where the cream rises to the top, where a patient approach may pay dividends and that may explain why a number of veterans have contended of late. There may not be any major winners in attendance but there are a number of wily old pros in the field and I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised if a few of them are contending come Sunday.
Thomas Aiken, ranking 120th in the official world rankings and with just one European Tour event to his name from 118 starts, heads the market at just [11.5]. It may be a weak field and someone has to be favourite but that makes no appeal whatsoever, and nor do any of the other market leaders.
If ever there was an event to swerve the favourites, keep stakes to a minimum, and to cast the net over a few outsiders, this is it. I'm not saying a fancied runner can't win but if the likes of Jaco Van Zyl or Ricardo Santos win at less than [20.0], I'm pretty sure I can live with missing out.
Gregory Bourdy has form at all the venues mentioned above and he led the Irish Open at halfway last year. He's not in great form but I thought he was worth chancing given how well-suited his game should be to East London.
Craig Lee finished tied 8th last year, was tied 14th in Morocco and tied 7th at the Irish Open. Carlos Del Moral and Mikael Lundberg are others that popped up when trawling through past results at the aforementioned tracks and they too have been backed for small stakes.
I've included Emiliano Grillo, who I backed last year at [1000.0] when he finished in a tie for 10th and who is also one of Paul Krishnamurty's Find Me a 100 Winner selections. And I've also included my ole mate James Morrison. He's out of form but plays a tree-lined course well and was tied 4th here in 2010.
My final pick is Lyle Rowe, who finished tied for 8th last year after a slow start. Ian at Sports Betting Index brought Lyle to my attention this morning and he explains why he has a chance here. And I thought I put some effort into my research!
I may add one or two more before the off but if I do I'll be sure to add them to the comments sections below. I'll be back later with a preview of the week's other event - the Northern Trust Open.
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