2016 DP World Tour Championship
India v England – 2nd Test
Joburg Open – Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club
The “European Tour” remains in South Africa this week for the tenth renewal of the Joburg Open and like last week’s event, it is hosted by the European and Sunshine Tours. Last year’s winner was Englishman, Andy Sullivan and he won’t be defending his title this year because he’s opted not to take part.
With the absence of Sullivan, there are no players ranked inside the official world golf rankings top 50 participating this week, but despite this, the Joburg Open should still be an excellent event from a betting perspective. The best ranked player in the field, Jaco Van Zyl heads the betting and is followed by the likes of Tyrrell Hatton and last week’s winner Brandon Stone. Those who played in last week’s South African Open are at an advantage this week as their game should be sharper than those that didn’t.
Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club hosts the Joburg Open for a tenth consecutive year and like previous years, the event is played over two different courses, the East and the West Course. The field will alternative between both courses on the opening two days and once the cut has been made, the East Course will host the weekend’s action. Low scoring is on the agenda with no score worse than -17 getting the job done since 2009. This event is played at altitude, therefore the ball flies further and I’d argue that course experience is slightly more important than normal. Looking at past leaderboards of this tournament, strong players from tee to green appear to feature towards the top and there doesn’t appear to be a huge advantage for the big hitters, nor the accurate drivers. Finally, as I mentioned in last week’s preview, there tends to be a few big priced South African’s in contention come Sunday, and that certainly proved to be the case in last week’s South African Open.
Lee Slattery – I’m backing Lee Slattery once again this week as I feel he’s being underrated by the bookmakers. The Englishman comes into this season off the back of a superb 2015 that saw him pick up his first European Tour victory since 2011. As @BenColeyGolf pointed out last week, Slattery has spent the last few months out in South Africa and this undoubtedly an advantage. He has a pretty good record in South Africa, he’s finished inside the top 25 in 19 of the 54 events he’s played and tied for a respectable 27th place finish last week. Lee has played in the Joburg Open on six occasions and he recorded three consecutive top 20 finishes from 2011 to 2013, which indicates that this week’s venue is one he can go well around.
Win/Each way @ 40/1
Hennie Otto – Three time European Tour winner Hennie Otto is more than capable of winning in his native country and I was very surprised to see 66/1 available in a weaker field than last week. He tied for 45th in last week’s South African Open, but we can expect better from Otto in this event. The South African has a very good record in European and Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned events. He’s played in 50 of them and has finished inside the top 10 on twelve occasions and this includes a victory back in 2011. Two of those top 10’s also came in this event, so like Slattery, it suggests that Otto has what it takes to win around the courses in use this week.
Win/Each way @ 66/1
Chris Swanepoel – Chris Swanepoel has been overlooked by the bookmakers due to his 45th place finish in last week’s South African Open, however this doesn’t tell the full story. Swanepoel was 3rd going into the final round last week, but a final round of 80 resulted in him plummeting down the leaderboard. The fact he was 3rd after 54 holes indicates his games in pretty good shape and at 150/1 he’s well worth a small bet. It should also be noted that Swanepoel won on the Sunshine Tour as recently as October and he finished 7th around this venue last year, therefore the South African is well worth siding with in this event.
Win/Each way @ 150/1
Prices correct at time of writing.
The BMW South African Open – Glendower Golf Club, Johannesburg
The European Tour’s 2016 season kicks off in South Africa for the 105th renewal of the South African Open later this week. The tournament was primarily a Sunshine Tour event, but since 1997 it has been co-sanctioned by the European Tour. European Tour members have done well in this event in recent years and last year’s renewal saw Andy Sullivan record the first of his three wins in 2015. The Englishman is second in the betting, behind South African Branden Grace and they are the only players ranked inside the world’s top 50 competing this week.
The South African Open returns to Glendower Golf Club after hosting the event in both 2014 and 2015. The course was designed in 1937 by C.H. Alison and it’s a traditional parkland venue with tree-lined fairways. Paul McGinley described the Glendower as “one of the best I’ve ever played, very visual, really well bunkered and extremely well set up”. The course is a par 72 that measures 7,564 yards and it doesn’t appear to suit any particular type of player. Finally, although the previous three winners of this tournament have been European, don’t rule out the South Africans, they have a good record in this event and there will inevitably be a couple in contention come Sunday afternoon.
Lee Slattery – Lee Slattery comes into 2016 off the back of his best season on the European Tour. He finished the season ranked 45th in the Race to Dubai standings, recorded five top 10 finishes and won on the European Tour for the first time since 2011. It goes without saying that last year would’ve done his confidence the world of good and at odds of 40/1, the bookmakers are underrating the Englishman. Interestingly Slattery spent Christmas with his family in South Africa and it is a country that he’s played some good golf in previously. Since 2000, Slattery has played 53 events in South Africa and has finished inside the top 10 on five occasions. This includes a 3rd place finish in this very event last year, which indicates Glendower is a venue that he can go well around.
Ulrich Van Den Berg – 40 year old Ulrich Van Den Berg is the standout bet for me this week and I was very surprised to see the price on offer, particularly as Glendower Golf Club is his home course. The South African tied for 22nd in this event in 2013 and admittedly missed the cut last year, however Glendower also hosts the BMG Classic, which is a Sunshine Tour event. From 2011 to 2013, Van Den Berg finished 13th, 11th and 1st in the BMG Classic, therefore if his games in good shape, he’s got every chance of finishing inside the top 10 this week. Van Den Berg has played almost all of his golf on the Sunshine Tour, however he won the final European Tour qualifying stage at PGA Catalunya in Novemeber. This is a big deal because he’s now exempt to play on the European Tour throughout 2016, which will allow him to play for big prize funds. It also indicates that he’s a good player, however I’m not convinced he’s quite good enough to win this event which is why I’ve backed him for a top 10 finish.
Prices correct at time of writing.
Hyundai Tournament of Champions – Plantation Course Kapalua Resort, Hawaii
The first PGA Tour tournament of 2016 gets underway on Thursday in the form of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. It is a limited field event that consists of the players who won on the PGA Tour in the previous calendar year, therefore just 32 players are taking part. Unsurprisingly Jordan Spieth is the bookmaker’s favourite and is followed in the betting by Jason Day, whilst Rory McIlroy has opted not to play despite winning twice in America throughout 2015.
The Tournament of Champions is one of the oldest events on the PGA Tour schedule, it was first played in 1953 and the Plantation Course at the Kapalua Resort located in Hawaii has played host since 1999. The course is a rare par 73 layout that measures 7,452 yards and low scoring tends to be required. Last year Patrick Reed shot 21 under par which was also matched by Jimmy Walker, but Reed subsequently won the playoff. In 2014 -19 was good enough for Zach Johnson to lift the trophy and the year previous the event was reduced to 54 holes. Despite this, Dustin Johnson still managed to shoot 16 under par.
At 7,452 yards, the course may appear to be lengthy, however driving distance isn’t a huge advantage around this track, as the likes of Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker have proved in recent years. This may be partly down to the large undulating greens, therefore proximity and a sharp short game are both advantageous, and the previous winners back this up. Finally course experience has proved to be a big plus around the Plantation Course, the last seven winners of this event had all played the course previously.
Patrick Reed – After a very strong finish to 2015, Patrick Reed moved up to 10th in the Official World Golf Rankings and he’s got a big year ahead in my opinion. The 25 year old is already a four time winner on the PGA Tour and one of those victories came in this event last year. Reed is excellent around the greens and as he proved in 2015, he’s more than capable of shooting the low scores required to win this event. One of the main reasons for me backing Reed is his superb form towards the end of last year. In his five most recent starts, he’s finished inside the top 10 on each occasion, and each event consisted of relatively strong fields. I’m not usually one for backing short prices, but I’ll make an exception on this occasion because I perceive 11/1 to be a very good price.
Scott Piercy – Last year was 37 year old Scott Piercy’s best on the PGA Tour, despite struggling with injury problems throughout 2014. He finished last season 22nd in the FedExCup standings and recorded five top 10 finishes and this includes a victory in the Barbasol Championship. The American has played in the Tournament of Champions twice before and finished inside the top 15 on both occasions. The Plantation Course suits his game in my opinion, he’s a long driver of the ball and generally ranks well in the proximity statistic. With some big names at the front of the market, it’s probably wise to back Piercy top 10 rather than for the victory, but I’ve also had a small bet on him at 66/1 each way.
Prices correct at time of writing.