Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Joburg Open 2017 - Royal Johannesburg and Kensington GC

Europeantour action returns to Johannesburg this week for the 200+ field contending the Joburg Open to be played once again at the Royal Johannesburg & Kensington GC over two courses, the easier West course, which  played almost 2 shots lower than the other course, the East course last year. The East will be in play for three rounds though with each player having played both on days one & two before the cut is made.The RJ&K requires accuracy, and strong GIR stats have been to the fore on leaderboards in recent years. As per the norm in these co-sanctioned events in South Africa, the home based players have a solid record but it's also worth noting that quite a few first time winners have gone in here. With such a huge field its hard to get excited about any of the market leaders considering price, but there really isn't much standout quality in this field, and you would expect one of the leading half dozen players in the market to see it out. But with a lot of thunderstorms forecasted for the week, it could get messy and the draw may play its part again, and those out on Thursday morning on the easier West Course might just get lucky.

Some players arrive here from Perth having also played in Malaysia the week before and indeed some also played in the Middle East- I expect these to be tired and should the tournament become a stop/start affair, these players shouldn't really be in contention - that's my thinking anyway. These players include Jordan Smith, Thomas Detry, Ryan Fox and Nathan Kimsey.

The Courses:

Both courses feature the kikuyu grass on its fairways and rough, which were a feature at Riviera last week in Los Angeles. The greens are poa annua. As with last week's PGA Tour event not all players will be au fait with kikuyu again bringing the home contingent into the reckoning. The golf club is on a hill at altitude, so wind will be a factor and with the weather forecasted that wind will be a real factor this week.

Shortlist and Selections:

Ireland's Paul Dunne produced a TOP10 on his debut twelve months ago and England's Anthony Wall seems to like here too with three TOP10s in his last three visits. Both are in decent form of late and made my shortlist. David Drysdale has two TOP3 finishes here as well as two TOP15s but missed the cut the last two years. However, he was 7th at the recent South African Open and was 11th at the Alfred Dunhill Championships on his recent trips to South Africa. Paul Waring, Ross McGowan and David Howell have banked course form here but the rest of the form sits strongly with the home players. One such player is a player that I've backed a few times for this and that's local boy, Thomas Aiken and this is a tournament that he would dearly love to win.

Graeme Storm held off Rory McIlroy to win the South African Open last month and he was 4th at the Alfred Dunhill Championship on his previous visit to SA in December at Leopard Creek. The win here last month was huge for the Englishman and he'll look forward to a revisit to this part of the world this week and having rested, he should be fresh and chopping at the bit. He's overpriced in my opinion in the outright (67.00) as well as the TOP20 (4.00) Whether he can follow up with another win so quickly having taken ten years in between the French Open in 2007 and last month's victory remains to be seen but confidence in this game is like an extra club at times.

Thomas Aiken is in solid form of late, will be at home this week and knows the RJ&K course better than anyone. I'm happy to see the 23.00 about for his chances this week. He didn't play last year as he sought a season on the PGA Tour but previous five years' results read 10-5-6-24-3. Recent form is very strong ; 6/5 this season with 4 TOP20s of which 3 are TOP5's ! Ranked number one for GIR, this week represents probably his best chance to prevail at his home Joburg Open.

Given first time winners have prevailed here a number of times, Dylan Frittelli has to be included. 9 TOP10s on the Challenge Tour saw him win the coveted Rolex Trophy in 2016, and although results this season are patchy its worth noting his best results have come in his homeland. Another Joburger, Frittelli produced a TOP10 last week at the Sunshine Tour's Data Dimension Pro-AM having lost a play-off the week before at the Eye of Africa Championship. This home form cannot be ignored and the 55.00 outright represents a good price as does the 7.00 for TOP10.

The Asian players, Soomin Lee & Ashun Wu are a nice price this week and I wanted to get them on board and may do so if there is any drift today/tomorrow or indeed they get the draw I'm hoping for based on above. Paul Dunne and Chris Paisley were left out based on price alone but would not be surprised to see TOP20s from them both. Its Jacques Blaauw though that I may get involved with in-running as he has been in fine form in much better grades of late when finishing 6th on the web.com tour in Colombia two weeks ago.


2.00 pts T. Aiken @ 23.00
0.50 pts D. Frittelli @ 55.00
0.50 pts G.Storm @ 67.00

2.50 pts TOP20 G.Storm @ 4.00
2.50 pts TOP10 D. Frittelli @ 7.00

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