Monday, 4 January 2016

South African Open 2016

Europeantour action for the 2016 season resumes in South Africa this week for the second oldest National Open Golf Championship in the world, when Ernie Els hosts at Glendower GC. Whilst Ernie will take on the responsibility of growing the National Open in his homeland, he can be pleased to see his compatriots and fellow Major winners, Retief Goosen and Trevor Immelman tee it up too despite the forced withdrawal of Charl Schwartzel. England's Andy Sullivan will defend.

Reports from the course is that it is in immaculate condition with little rough and weather seems perfect for low scoring. It should suit the bigger hitters where accuracy will not be as critical as most weeks. Schwartzel's withdrawal will mean Branden Grace will go off the clear favourite having produced four TOP10s in his last five starts worldwide and it may be difficult to see him getting beat here if he kick starts 2016 is much the same vein as he ended 2015. As is the case normally in South Africa co-sanctioned events such as this, the winner usually comes in the guise of a home player and Grace's leading challengers from his homeland are best represented with a 40 year plus old brigade such as Els, Goosen, Horne, Hugo, Fichardt, Van der Walt, and Van der Berg, whilst those slightly younger, and considered more of a challenge, could include Jaco Van Zyl (aged 36) , Trevor Fisher (36) and Hennie Otto (39). So, if Grace is not to succeed this week and a South African is to prevail with youth on his side, are we to look at and consider George Coetzee and Brandon Stone and Jbe' Kruger?  I'd like to think, of the leading home contingent though, that perhaps with a new season upon us, fresh goals and targets in their minds, that perhaps Richard Sterne can reproduce the quality of golf to re-ignite his career after a sustained rib injury enforced a rest for much of 2015 before returning to action in November in SA to finish with a T20 before producing a T34th at Leopard Creek where but for a poor third round 77, would have seen him finish closer to a TOP10. With a nice break over Christmas under his belt, the Pretoria man can follow up his T20 here of twelve months ago and contend. Of the 67 players from South Africa in the field (just under 50%), the average age of these players is 31 and the 34 year old is a class above the vast majority of them. If injury free he could have a good January.

Brandon Stone is one of the youngest in the field at 22 years of age and has a recent TOP20 under his belt at Leopard Creek following his win on the Sunshine Tour in his previous start at the Lion of Africa Cape Town Open. Stone was on the European Challenge Tour last season finishing 14th on the Order of Merit before producing a 6th place finish at the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final in Oman, three shots behind winner Ricardo Gouveia. Stone will be encouraged and should be confident heading into this week on the back of securing his card on the full tour this season and those recent results.He can ignore his course form of the past two years at this event and hit the ground running here and produce a bold showing. I will be ignoring the course form !


0.5 pts e/w  R.Sterne @ 51.00
5 pts T20 B.Stone @ 3.00

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