For this week’s European Tour preview, we head to South Africa for the Joburg Open. This event was won by Haydn Porteous, one of the many South African natives in this field. We have plenty of course history to draw upon for this event, and are going to focus on the South African angle as usual. Our field is headlined by Brandon Stone, Jaco van Zyl, Thomas Aiken, George Coetzee, and Richard Sterne – all South Africans.
This week’s venue is Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club. We have an interesting aspect this week, as the venue features two golf courses (players will play one round on each before the cut). We begin with the par-72 East course, since that’s the course where the tournament will be decided on Saturday and Sunday. It’s a beast, measuring over 7,600 yards with some extremely long par-4s. Like other courses in South Africa, it’s at a high elevation, so it plays much shorter than the yardage and driving distance isn’t essential. The shorter West course is 7,200 yards, and is a course where players will go low. Last year’s event featured a 62, 63, and 64 on the West course. One thing that I did notice is most of the top contenders on Sunday, including winner Haydn Porteous, began their week on the difficult West course. I’m going to lean very heavily on driving accuracy, greens in regulation, and scrambling this week.
1) Driving Accuracy
3) Birdie or Better %
4) Greens in Regulation %
Let’s look at my top-20 favorite plays this week:
Jordan L. Smith ($11,100) – Smith has been on fire to start his rookie season, and he’s likely going to lock up R.O.Y. soon enough. He’s the next in line of young, English golf talent. Smith finished 3rd at the SA Open and 6th in Qatar, then followed up with 23rd in Dubai and a 25th place finish in Perth last week. He narrowly missed out on match play after making a bogey in the playoff. It’s likely that a South African wins this week, but Smith has a great chance to buck that trend.
Jaco van Zyl ($10,900) – van Zyl is coming off a 2nd place finish in his last start in Qatar, where he was seaking his 1st European Tour win. He’s been close so many times, but now comes to his home soil where he is one of the most successful golfers in the history of the Sunshine Tour. Van Zyl has three top-4 finishes at this venue, and has made nearly all of his cuts.
George Coetzee ($10,600) – Coetzee has been hit or miss recently, missing cuts in Qatar and Malaysia but sandwiching them between 7th and 14th place finishes in the desert. Coetzee, like his countrymen, is very comfortable and dominant on home soil. He comes to a venue where he has some of the best course history in the field. He’s never finished worse than 24th here since 2011, including a win and two other top-10 finishes.
Richard Sterne ($10,300) – Last year, Sterne found some form here with a 10th place finish. He should have positive memories, since he’s a two time winner of this event. Sterne is another veteran South African who I target when he’s playing on home soil. His last start, although in early December, was a 2nd place finish at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa.
Anthony Wall ($9,200) – Wall is a bit of a surprise on this list, until you look at his course history. He’s finished 3rd, 2nd, and 10th here the past three seasons! Wall is a savvy veteran who obviously plays well on links style courses and in the wind, which we saw several times last season. He contended at the Scottish Open, and then won the Paul Lawrie Match Play event weeks later (where he defeated Alex Noren). He missed his last cut, but had two strong showings prior to that.
Dean Burmester ($9,000) – Burmester is an absolute bomber off the tee, but I’ll overlook any mold to play him in his home country. He’s been great to start this season, posting 17th at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December, and several top-20 finishes on the Sunshine Tour. He’s made his last four cuts at this event, but hasn’t had any top finishes. He’s posted some low rounds though, and I could easily see him contending Sunday afternoon.
Romain Langasque ($8,500) – Langasque is one of the most talented rookies on Tour, as he showed with a top-10 finish at last year’s Masters. That’s the real Masters, for those of you who didn’t notice his name at Augusta National. The Frenchman has been very consistent this year, making all four cuts. He finished 21st in his last visit to South Africa, and posted a top-10 at the Australian PGA. Langasque, Detry, and Smith should battle for rookie of the year all season.
Alexander Bjork ($8,300) – I used to love when Bjork was priced in the $6,500 range! Seems like the secret is out. The Swedish pro has made all five of his cuts on Tour, posting 7th, 13th, and 28th place finishes in his last three starts. The 7th place finish came in his last trip to South Africa, which should stir up some positive memories this week. It’s been a long time since he missed a cut on any Tour, which bodes well for the European Tour, which can be very volatile.
Marc Warren ($8,100) – Hit or miss course history for Warren, who has a 20th, a 3rd, and two MCs. Last we saw Warren, he was shooting a opening round 63 in Malaysia, showing that he’s in form. We know the Scot can shoot low numbers, but for him, it’s about stringing together four solid rounds. Warren is a streaky player who I’ll ride while he’s showing decent form.
Justin Walters ($7,800) – The South African bomber is one of my favorites of the bunch this week, and he always seems to go overlooked. Walters has finished 3rd, 24th, and 2nd here the past three seasons, so a win may be on the horizon. Although his recent form isn’t great, Walters makes plenty of birdies and eagles which is great for our DFS formats.
James Morrison ($7,500) – Although his course history is poor here, Morrison is one of my weaknesses. He’s too good of a talent to be priced here, but his main struggle is with consistency. He did post a 16th place finish here in 2014, so it’s not a complete flier. To start his 2017 campaign, Jimbo has posted 13th, 23rd, and 12th place finishes across the globe.
Jacques Blaauw ($7,500) – Blaauw is another relative unknown South African to most DFS players, but I’ve been following his journey on the web.com Tour. He missed the cut last week in Panama, but posted a 6th place finish the week prior. He won a Sunshine Tour event late last year, so returning to home soil should be huge for Blaauw. Although not a household name yet, he’s posted top-7 finishes at this event each of the past two seasons. A great GPP flier.
Haydn Porteous ($7,400) – I tend to always write up the past champion of an event, but this one seems a little risky. Although he showed a little form with a 26th place finish in Malaysia last week, Porteous has been abysmal for the past year. He’s missed early all of his cuts, and has struggled with consistency. He popped up as an early leader on day 1 of last year’s Open Championship, before fading away. Long-hitting South Africans should be good here, but don’t invest too much in Porteous.
Justin Hicks ($7,100) – Golf enthusiasts should recognize Hicks’ name from U.S. Opens, where he’s popped up on early leaderboards a couple of times. He’s a seasoned veteran who is trying to find his footing on the Sunshine Tour this season. He recently finished 8th in the Eye of Africa PGA Championship, and followed up with a 2nd place finish in last week’s Dimension Data Pro-Am. He’s obviously a deep flier, but seems to have found a spark in his game the past two weeks.
Chris Hanson ($6,900) – OK, you guys knew I couldn’t go a week without writing up Chris Hanson. He sadly missed his last cut (by a single shot), burning every one of my lineups. But for $6,900 he’s an absolute steal, as he is usually a very reliable cut-maker with top-10 upside. He finished 61st here in his debut last season, but he’s gotten much more comfortable on Tour since.
Dawie van der Walt ($6,700) – The veteran South African was playing on the PGA Tour last season, so that shows that he’s a supreme talent for this low price. Van der Walt has posted 9th and 3rd place finishes here in the past, so the top-10 upside is definitely there. His recent form has been spotty at best, but I’ll take a shot on one of the best players under $7,000 this week.
Lee Slattery ($6,600) – Slattery seems to burn me every week I use him, but he’s priced very low compared to his odds to win the event. Slattery struggles with consistency, and can throw a 76 or 77 any week of the year. But he’s also a great talent and birdie maker when he’s on. Slattery finished 19th, 18th, and 17th in a three year stretch here, so there should be plenty of positive memories for him in Joburg. A 27th place finish last week showed me enough to take a shot with Slatts.
Jbe Kruger ($6,600) – Nothing pops too much for Kruger, whose recent form and course form are just mediocre. But he’s too good a talent to be priced this low in an event hosted in South Africa. He’s made six of eight cuts here, with one top-10 finish in 2012. Kruger is a bomber and birdie-maker who is worthy of some GPP shares this week at a really affordable price.
Garth Mulroy ($6,400) – Mulroy is my deep flier for the week. The South African veteran has posted two runner-up finishes here, as well as a handful of other top-15 finishes. He’s made three of his past four cuts on Tour, and although he’s lacking high finishes, Mulroy should feel comfortable playing this event on home soil
David Howell ($6,200) – The battle between recent form and course history. Howell missed all of his cuts on the desert swing, and seems to be searching for some sparks of last season’s form. On the other hand, he’s finished 13th and 2nd here the past two seasons. Howell is a player who tends to keep himself away from big numbers, which should be a valuable asset this week. If his putter gets hot, Howell could easily crack the top-20.
Good luck this week!