Tshwane Open: Short priced favourites do not appeal in South Africa, says The Punter

Julien Quesne - can he do Steve a favour in South Africa?
Julien Quesne - can he do Steve a favour in South Africa?

This is the last event of the South African Swing and George Coetzee is a single figure favourite to make it six wins in eight for the home contingent, but he's not a bet for Steve in his look at the European Tour action...

"Given the record of fancied South Africans in their homeland this year, as is the case most years, I wouldn't want to put any one off big-hitting George Coetzee and now that he's managed one win, he could well go in again but I can live without backing him before the off at just 8.07/1."

Tournament History
This is just the second renewal of the Tshwane Open - an event with a poor quality field and low prize money. Those beginning to suffer with South African Swing fatigue will be pleased to read that this is the final event from South Africa on the European Tour this season.

The Els Course, Copperleaf Golf & Country Estate, Centurion, South Africa

Course Details
Par 72, 7791 yards
Stroke index in 2013 - 70.77
Designed by Ernie Els and opened in 2006, Copperleaf has wide, exposed Kikuyu fairways and Kikuyu rough. The greens are bentgrass and running at 10.5 on the stimpmeter. There are a grand total of 112 bunkers and eight lakes so if players do miss the generous fairways, trouble awaits.

Although long, with two par 4s measuring in excess of 500 yards and two par 5s stretching out to at least 650 yards, only seven holes averaged over par for the week last year and with no wind to speak of forecast, we can expect plenty of low scores.

Useful Sites
Course Site
Twitter Link
Tee Times
Weather Forecast

TV Coverage
Live on Sky Sports all four days. There are two sessions on both Thursday and Friday at 8.30 and 13.30 and then coverage starts at 10.30 on both Saturday and Sunday.

Inaugural Result in 2013
1st Dawie Van Der Walt -21
2nd Darren Fichardt -19
3rd Louis De Jager -18

What will it take to win the Tshwane Open?
With just one renewal to go on we've not got much to get our teeth into. On such a long track, length has to be an advantage but I wouldn't get too hung up on driving distance. Of the top-five in the driving stats, Danny Willett and Bjorn Akesson both finished tied 5th and Morten Orum Madsen was 8th so length clearly helps but Scott Henry smashed it miles further than anyone else 12 months ago and he could only finish 53rd.

Van Der Walt won not because he was long off the tee but because he hit more greens than anyone else, scrambled better than everyone else and played the par 4s better than anyone else. 

Is there an angle in?
This will be the eighth South African event of the 2013/2014 European Tour season and one of the home contingency has won five of the first seven. After both Hennie Otto and Charl Schwartzel swerved victory at the South Africa Open back in November, the season's opening event, Morten Orum Madsen, won for Denmark and then fellow Dane, Thomas Bjorn, captured the select international field Nedbank Golf Challenge but the other five have all been won by South Africans, and strongly fancied South Africans in the main.

Dawie Van Der Walt, wasn't fancied to win the Nelson Mandela, even though he'd won this event last year, but the other four winners - Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen, George Coetzee and Thomas Aiken - were all either first or second in the betting and that's very typical of South African events.

I find it devilishly hard to press go on these low-ranking, low-priced favourites but all the stats suggest it's the best way to go.

In-Play Tactics
It would be ridiculous to draw many conclusions from one renewal but for the record, Van Der Walt was three off the lead after round one, tied for second and one stroke back at halfway and co-leading through 54-holes. With low scoring essential, and with benign conditions forecast, we can expect more of the same this time around I'd be surprised if anyone can win from too far back at any stage.

For those trading in-running, the back-nine is slightly easier than the front and the last four holes all averaged under-par last year so anyone posting a score on Sunday won't be safe.

Market Leaders
Having finally broken his duck, at the Joburg Open, and having played fairly well at the WGC Match Play last week before losing to eventual winner, Jason Day, George Coetzee, is a strong and worthy favourite here.

Given the record of fancied South Africans in their homeland this year, as is the case most years, I wouldn't want to put any one off big-hitting George and now that he's managed one win, he could well go in again but I can live without backing him before the off at just 8.07/1.

Africa Open winner, Thomas Aiken, is just about second favourite ahead of the extraordinarily short-priced French maiden, Romain Wattel, but he doesn't make too much appeal. He's not short off the tee but he's not monstrously long either and in addition to his missed cut here 12 months ago, his poor performance at the Dimension Data on the Sunshine Tour last week is a bit off-putting.

Spain's Rafa Cabrera-Bello is next up but he too doesn't make any appeal. He was in cracking form last month, finishing fourth in Abu Dhabi and third in Qatar but his two outings since haven't inspired and he didn't play here last year so we've no idea how he'll take to the course.

Centurion resident, Darren Fichardt, knows the course very well, as he showed last year when he perhaps should have won. He contended for the title at the Africa Open last time out and had he been north of 25.024/1 I'd have played.

In addition to Fichardt, I'd have liked to play fellow local resident, Jean Hugo, but I played him at 150.0149/1 last year and I'm not taking half the price this.

Hennie Otto caught my eye and Danish duo Morten Orum Madsen and big-hitting Lucas Bjerregaard were both carefully considered but in the end I've just had a couple of wagers on two players I picked out at the end of last year as likely value plays week after week - Julien Quesne and Michael Hoey.

Julien Quesne @ 70.069/1
Michael Hoey @ 120.0119/1

I'll be back later with a preview of the week's main event - the Honda Classic.

* You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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