golf

A Preview Of The South African Open

January 10, 2017

- Grant Whittington

The 2017 European Tour tees off in full swing at this week’s South African Open with FedExCup champion Rory McIlroy the headline act following his decision to opt for the greens of Glendower over the invitation-only SBS Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.

Four of the world’s top six have been unable to resist the temptation and oceanic setting of the Plantation Course at Kapalua, but this does not detract from the high-class field in Ekurhuleni that the Irishman must overcome if he is to add this prestigious title to his growing resume.

This will be the four-time major winner’s second appearance in the event and his confirmed participation will help with the continual expansion of the competition which was first established in 1903.

The record of South African legend Gary Player in his homeland remains untouchable with ‘The Black Knight’ out on his own with an incredible 13 successes between 1956 and 1981.

Last year it was another native that took centre stage as Brandon Stone emerged victorious by two strokes to win his maiden European Tour crown and in the process became the youngest player to win the event since it united with the tour calendar 20 years ago.

A topsy-turvy final round saw the then 22-year-old amass seven birdies and six bogies, as well as recover from letting a five-shot advantage disappear to see off a spirited fightback from fellow player Christiaan Bezuidenhout in the closing stages. An emotional Stone was reduced to tears following his dramatic triumph and he will hope for more tears of joy at a tournament that is endorsed by former world number one Ernie Els – the host and ambassador of the Championship.

Known as “The Big Easy”, Els has struggled for consistency in the latter part of his career, but he remains another stellar name in the field which also features Retief Goosen – the two-time US Open winner who won this tournament in 1995 and 2005.

Englishman Andy Sullivan could be another strong contender having come through unscathed in a sudden-death playoff against Charl Schwartzel two years ago to claim first prize. The 29-year-old enjoyed a strong autumn period by finishing second in Portugal and third in the Nedbank Golf Challenge, although recent form isn’t always reliable when it comes to the first Tour event of the year.

With every player effectively starting from a clean slate, there could be an opportunity for one of the longshots to make an impression on the rest of the pack. Bezuidenhout at 66/1 could prove to be superb value if he can replicate his exploits from last year.

Trawling further down the betting list, Trevor Fisher Jnr at odds of 100/1 is a tempting proposition when it comes to assessing the outsiders. The South African shot a fantastic third round 66 last year and finished tied eighth – just six shots off Stone.

Unsurprisingly it is McIlroy who goes in as red hot favourite for the South African Open as he looks to send out a statement of intent once the action gets underway on Thursday.

Odds For The South African Open

Rory McIlroy 5/2

Brandon Stone 12/1

Retief Goosen 66/1

Christiaan Bezuidenhout 50/1

Trevor Fisher Jnr 80/1

Back your favourite for the South African Open with Sky Bet

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