Schwartzel set to defend Joburg Open
BY Bruce Young | European PGA Tour | 2011 The Joburg Open | Preview | 12 Jan 2011
The European Tour stays in South Africa this week for the Joburg Open where 2010 winner Charl Shwartzel will start as the favourite to continue his recent good form and successfully defend the title he won by a massive six shots twelve months ago.
Schwartzel finished just one shot out of the playoff last week at the Africa Open. Not only has he won this event but he also finished 4th in 2009 and the combination of his success at this venue and his current form suggests he is a stand out this week.
The tournament is played over the East and the West Courses at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington courses in the suburb of Gauteng in Johannesburg during the opening two rounds allowing a field of 210 golfers to start the event. The East Course becomes the focus however during the final 36 holes.
Thomas Aiken has yet to win on the European Tour but he has developed into a very consistent player and before long that consistency will be rewarded. He missed the cut in this event last year but he has played well of late against much stronger fields than he faces this week and should be one of Schwartzel’s biggest threats.
Zaco Van Zyl earned his European Tour card recently and after several years battling to reach the heights he achieved as an amateur (he won 2000 South African Amateur title) he now appears close to his first European Tour win. Van Zyl has won numerous events on the Sunshine Tour and in 2007 played the PGA Tour but the 31 year old is a much better player than his results to date would suggest. He finished 4th last week in East London and only one shot out of the playoff.
Darren Clarke has played this event well previously including last year when he finished runner-up to Schwartzel. At his best Clarke could easily handle this field and he has given signals of late that his game is getting better again.
Another who has played this event well including when winning in 2008 is Richard Sterne and he too has played solidly of late.
Australians in the field are Daniel Gaunt, Wade Ormsby, Matthew Zions and Scott Hend.
The tournament is the last event of the four event South African swing before the European Tour moves to Abu Dhabi next week.