There’s nothing resembling an off season for the newly named DP World Tour with last week’s grand finale in Dubai already all but a distant memory.
From the Middle East the caravan has moved to South Africa for a three-week swing of events co-sanctioned with the Sunshine Tour starting with this week’s Joburg Open.
There are three spots at the 2022 Open Championship up for grabs in a field that features a strong local representation.
DEFENDING CHAMPION: Joachim B. Hansen was a two-shot winner in 2020 over local big hitting sensation, Wilco Nienaber. The Dane came from three back with nine holes to play to capture his first European Tour title.
COURSE: There seems universal agreement the finishing run at Randpark Golf Club’s Firethorn Course is among the toughest closing stretches in South Africa.
RIGHT: Joachim B. Hansen claimed his first European Tour title at this event in 2020. PHOTO: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images.
With water in play on the long and difficult par4 16th and par-3 17th and a brutal, 464 metre par-4 at the 18th it is a tournament where almost no lead is safe with three holes to go.
(In 2020 Wilco Nienaber, who was three in front with nine to play, dropped shots at both 17 and 18 to finish two behind eventual winner Joachim B. Hansen.)
Originally built in the 1960’s and a four-time host of the South African Open, Randpark was completely redesigned in 2015 with seven new holes constructed and all 18 greens rebuilt.
A creek meanders through the course weaving in and out of play on several holes while there are also a number of dams to penalise the wayward.
Scoring at the three Joburg Opens played here to date suggest little in the way of barriers to low numbers with Daren Fichardt’s 2017 winning total of 15-under bettered by seven and four strokes respectively in the following years.
PRIZEMONEY: ZAR 17,500,000
PLAYERS TO WATCH: With three Open spots up for grabs this event represents a significant opportunity for what is a strong field of locals
There are several high profile South Africans teeing up (PGA Tour winner Dylan Frittelli and last year’s runner-up Wilco Nienaber among them) but there is no shortage of local talent capable of contending.
The Sunshine Tour has done a good job of fostering quality players in recent years – as evidenced by the presence of South African golfers on the world stage – and some new stars are sure to emerge this week.
Of those who already ply their trade predominantly outside South Africa Dean Burmester, who finished top-10 in Dubai last week, brings good form to the tee.
A winner in his homeland three weeks ago at the PGA Championship and T6 in Dubai, he will be among the local favourites
However, perhaps the player who will attract most interest among diehard fans is Italy’s Matteo Manasserro.
A three-time winner on the European Tour as a teenager, Manassero’s more recent struggles have been well documented but his form on the Challenge Tour has been encouraging.
Four top-10 finishes in his last seven starts suggest things may be moving in the right direction for the now 28-year-old and his play this week will be worth watching.
72-HOLE RECORD: 260 (-27, Richard Sterne, 2013, Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club); At Randpark 264 (-23, Shubankar Sharma, 2017)
PAST AUSSIE WINNERS: No Australian has won this event.
AUSTRALIANS IN THE FIELD: There are no Australians in the field.
Round 1: Thursday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 9pm – 2am)
Round 2: Friday (KAYO LIVE 9pm)
Round 3: Saturday (KAYO LIVE 9pm)
Round 4: Sunday (KAYO LIVE 9pm)
*AEDT, check local guides