Golf: Home is where the heart is in Joburg Open

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EUROPEAN TOUR specialist Vince Blissett (@Vince_RFC) returns with three more fancies for this week’s Joburg Open.

Joburg Open | 23rd–26th February 2017 | Sky Sports

The World Super 6 turned out a lot better than most expected it to. The format and scheduling needs tweaking and maybe the stroke-play element reduced but it would be safe to say that six-hole match-play has a role to play in future of golf.

In terms of bets all three of last week’s picks made the first objective of making the first cut but none made the second cut. Brett Rumford ended up leading after the stroke-play element then carried on to win the tournament around his local course and is a deserving winner along with coming across as a thoroughly decent bloke.

This time last week I had him noted down at 50/1 and spent most of Sunday kicking myself for not backing him. You live and learn.

A quick word on the runner-up – 17 year-old Phacara Khongwatmai. That’s a name to remember, we’ll be hearing a lot about him in the coming years.

The Tour arrives in South Africa

We’re onto two weeks in South Africa now with the first being the Joburg Open, funnily enough played in Johannesburg at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Country Club, which hosts for the 11th successive year.

Over the first two days, two courses are in use – the West and harder East, which is then used over the weekend. This type of set-up can easily mean the weather can have a big impact on things with the draw having a say too.

At the moment (Monday afternoon) the forecast looks OK with thunderstorms a possibility throughout but by the looks of things not enough to cause too much disruption so I’m happy to ignore the draw.

Home dominance

As is normally the case with tournaments in South Africa the local contingent have a strong record on home soil. Seven of the 10 winners here have been South African whilst if you use the traditional five-place pay-out rules, of the 61 that would have seen the bookies handing money back 34 have been South African.

Some would explain those figures by saying that there are a lot of South Africans playing so the odds suggest they’d do well but the winners here tend to come from the upper echelons.

Charl Schwartzel x2, Branden Grace, Richard Sterne x2, George Coetzee and Andy Sullivan have all won this tournament. You can also add in the fact that a lot of the field solely play on the Sunshine Tour and can be discounted to back that up further.

Competition pointers

The tournament tends to be a low scoring affair, which for me puts a little more emphasis on recent form than normal. Looking at the stats from previous years it looks like putting isn’t overly important although obviously still relevant if the winning score will be in the high teens.

As always GIR is a key stat – if you don’t get onto the green chances of racking up birdies is low. Finally, driving distance could be an important stat as Johannesburg is at high altitude so the ball will go further.

So to surmise, I’m ignoring everyone that isn’t a prominent South African on tour which cuts things down a little but not much, is playing well, has good GIR stats and also has some course form. Not a necessity that last one but I tend to like some course knowledge.

Thomas Aiken (22/1 Bet365)

First pick is Thomas Aiken. His last two attempts in South Africa have produced a fourth at the Alfred Dunhill in December where he ranked number one in GIR hitting 88.9% and a fifth at the South African Open in December where he had slightly worse GIR stats only hitting 83.3% to rank second.

He carried that form into the Desert Swing registering a 13th in Abu Dhabi and fourth in Qatar before tailing off in Dubai and Malaysia last time out.

He took a deserved week off last week and now gets to play in his home town at a course where he’s got very good form.

From nine starts, Aiken has registered a third, fifth, sixth, 10th and a 12th. Of those towards the head of the marker he’s the one I like the look of most at 22/1 each-way (Bet365).

Christiaan Bezuidenhout (50/1 Bet365)

Next up, Christiaan Bezuidenhout. He’s had fifth-place finishes the last two weeks on the Sunshine Tour so is clearly on form, hopefully there’s a little more to come.

Christiaan consistently ranks highly in GIR, hitting around 75% including the South Africa Open in January where he ranked fourth but was let down by his putting to finish back in 37th.

On the Sunshine Tour his outing hasn’t been too bad but could be better and will need to improve slightly this week but 50/1 seems like a good price to me on him each-way (Bet365).

Jacques Blaauw (60/1 32Red)

There’s no big priced fancy from me this week. Instead, I much prefer Jacques Blaauw at 60/1. He has been playing on the Web.com Tour, which is the understudy to the PGA, the last two weeks picking up a sixth-place in Colombia before missing the cut in Panama this past week.

No stats are available for the Web.com so there isn’t too much to go on but I’m not too worried about the missed cut, it means he has been able to make the long trip back to South Africa a few days earlier which is an advantage in my opinion.

Back at the end of last year Jacques had two top-10’s on the Sunshine Tour ranking highly in both GIR and putting. Add in seventh-place finishes at this tournament the past two years and I’m happy to get him onside at the price available.

Top-20 Finish

Finally, something a bit different in a market I keep meaning to get involved in with is Makhetha Mazibuko to finish in the top-20 at 25/1 with Stan James.

I’ll admit I’d not heard of him until a few weeks ago when he lost in a play-off on the Sunshine Tour. Looking back at his results though, it looks like he’s been making progress.

He had an awful lot of MC’s including three at this tournament but in the last third of 2016 he started turning things around and making cuts, cumulating in that second place.

Last week wasn’t so great but still managed to make the cut, but a poor week after a career-high is to be expected. Stan James has him at 25/1 for a top 20 finish and I think that’s worth a small go.

Best Bets

Joburg Open – Thomas Aiken (22/1 each-way Bet365)

Joburg Open – Christaain Bezuidenhout (50/1 each-way Bet365)

Joburg Open – Jacques Blaauw (60/1 each-way 32Red)

Joburg Open – Makhetha Mazibuko to finish in the top-20 (25/1 Stan James)

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