A good tournament was enjoyed by this very column last week at the Dubai Desert Classic with Andy Sullivan (33/1 e/w) and Thorbjorn Olesen (3/1 top ten) both obliging to return healthy profit. Indeed, Sullivan held the clubhouse lead with just a hole to play, but Danny Willett held his nerve to sink a birdie putt and consign our payout to around the 5/1 mark. But still, combined with Olesen’s prize it was a healthy weekend.
The European Tour takes something of a swerve this week: after the quality line ups in the annual Desert Swing trio of events, we find ourselves in South Africa once again for the Tshwane Open.
A quick look at the betting suggests the field here is….sparse, shall we say, and certainly lacking in quality. But this is an event where typically the South African contingent does very well, and given the quality start to the season that many of these names have enjoyed we’re happy to get involved too.
Charl Schwartzel is the favourite here, and as a major winner and multiple-time Tour event champ there’s no reason to dispute that fact. But he has had two months off now, and often it can take a while to blow off the cobwebs after such a lay off. And this Pretoria CC course can be slightly unforgiving towards players who aren’t hitting their straps from hole one – only two players went double figures under par in 2015.
For this combination of reasons, we’re happy to leave Schwartzel alone this week, and while we may end up with egg on our faces come Sunday he just seems an unnecessary risk….particularly as we have three other attractive punts to try.
George Coetzee to Win (8/1 each way)
As ever we are looking for that magic (and often winning) combo of good recent form and a bit of pedigree on the course. And in George Coetzee, we have both in abundance.
The South African recorded three top 40 finishes on the Desert Swing against competition that was far superior to that on show this week. Indeed, his seventh place return at the Qatar Masters a fortnight ago could have been even better but for a third round of 73. So we don’t need to worry about how well the 29-year-old is striking the ball.
Does he have history at Pretoria CC? You bet: Coetzee won here last year after firing -14, and given that he has been a member here for the best part of two decades (and has thus played the course hundreds of times) it would be fair to say that nobody in the field knows this neck of the woods better.
We’re going each way because of a) the unpredictability of golf and b) the undoubted quality of Schwartzel. But we’d be disappointed if Coetzee isn’t heavily in the mix heading into Sunday’s final round.
Trevor Fisher Jr to Win (22/1 each way)
Coetzee, Schwartzel, perhaps Jaco Van Zyl and Trevor Fisher Jr….those are the four players in this field that look capable of winning the trophy (yes, we feel free to bug us if that isn’t the case come Sunday).
We’re giving Fisher Jr this platform because he’s in goo nick at the moment, always seems to play well in his homeland of South Africa and is a former Tour winner.
A return of 16-48-26 from the Desert Swing is respectable enough, while an 8th and 13th amongst good company in the two events held in South Africa in January suggest that he should go close here.
Another Pretoria based swinger, Fisher Jr actually led this very tournament twelve months ago heading into the last round but blobbed out in the final 18 to finish 23rd. He will be itching to put that right in front of friends and family this weekend.
Haydn Porteous Top Ten Finish (3/1)
A few final words for our third pick this week: Haydn Porteous to finish top ten. The precocious 21-year-old won the Jo’burg Open a matter of weeks ago, and has since followed that up with an 8th place finish at the Dubai Desert Classic last week, firing -14.
Porteous missed the cut here last year, so we wouldn’t perhaps class him as a title contender, but a 29th here in 2014 suggests he can handle the course. Few in this field are in as good form as the South African.