Monday, 2 March 2015

Africa Open 2015

This blog had the winner at East London last year as Thomas Aiken ensured the title stayed on South African soil once again but the defending champion won't be here this week as he heads off to Florida to partake in the WGC Cadillac at Doral. Indeed, this week's event in South Africa sees a "weakish" local team square up against their European Tour counterparts in the co-sanctioned event. Andy Sullivan will try to win his third event in seven outings here and to be honest he could very well do so and at prices available between 12/1 to 18/1 he could tempt a few punters.

The course is short, 6,600 yds approximately, and calls for good wind players, moreso this week as wind is forecasted. Returning to action this week is Bristol's finest, Chris Wood who was runner up in 2011 and is well known for his wind prowess. I'd rather stand back this week and see how he fares following his long layoff due to wrist injury and take my chances on a couple of players that just might excel in the conditions.

First up is last week's TOP20 collect, Adrian Otaegui @ 50/1. The Spaniard is very accurate off the tee and arrives in excellent form having produced a TOP10 in Johannesburg on the back of a 12th in India and a 25th in Thailand. He missed the cut in his season's opener at the Alfred Dunhill Championships but has made the cut in the other 4 events showing progressive form. East London and the weather will suit as his TOP15 finish last year shows and there was much to like about his final round effort in India. The San Sebastien native has been well tipped by his fellow, more illustrious compatriots to excel on tour and he makes a lot of appeal this week where everything looks like its about to click for the young man. I'm certainly not deserting here having been on board the past two weeks.

Steve Webster is on my shortlist this week and despite now being the World Ranked 297, I've left him off the final staking plan. Surely that ranked player cannot win three weeks in a row to follow James Hahn and Padraig Harrington? It could be an incentive indeed, but he seemed very nervous in that final round in Joburg last week so it's a relunctant pass for me. Instead, I'm drawn to his compatriot, Tom Lewis, who has been a bit too quiet of late although in similar trends to Otaegui, Lewis has now made the cut in his last 4 events having missed out in Abu Dhabi. A TOP25 last week following on from T25 in Thailand suggests his game is not far away. The 2011 Portugal Masters Champion, in only his third start as a professional (was it really 4 years ago?)backs up his pedigree as a good wind, links type player having won the Boys Amateur at Royal St Georges and the St Andrews Links Trophy as an amateur.Incidently, Lewis won the the Boys Amateur the year before Otaegui took the title! Looking at Lewis' form on courses similar to this week (links/wind types) it makes sense to have an interest this week when considering he was 8th in Morocco last year, 15th at the Open de Espana, 15th in Denmark, 36th at the KLM, and 58th in Portugal, not to mention his T3rd at the Dunhill Championship in 2013. He's on the staking plan this week @ 80/1.

If the title is to remain on home soil then the best chance must surely rest with in form and course specialist, Jaco Van Zyl (16/1) and Darren Fichardt (25/1). The former has finished 5-2-4-4-28-5 the last 6 years whereas the latter has produced results of 5-W-18-mc-mc-2 in his last 6. Both arrive in great form but I will complete my team with siding with "veteran", David Howell who put in a great effort last week to finish T2nd. 14th at the Alfred Dunhill Links last year, and 15th at The Open, again suggests the Englishman excels on these course types and he should be motivated this week having secured qualification for this year's open at St Andrews with last week's finish. 50/1 outright seems to be a decent price in this field.


Staking Plan (15 pts)

1 pt WIN A.Otaegui @ 50/1
1 pt WIN T.Lewis @ 80/1
1 pt WIN D.Howell @ 50/1


TOP10
5 pts A.Otaegui @ 5/1
3.5 pts D.Howell @ 7/2
3.5 pts T.Lewis @ 6/1