European Tour returns to South Africa
BY Bruce Young | European PGA Tour | 2014 The Joburg Open | Preview | 04 Feb 2014
After a marvellous three week stint in the Middle East, The European Tour heads back to South Africa this week for the Joburg Open at the East and West Courses at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club in Johannesburg.
The event also doubles as a qualifying event for the Open Championship with the leading three players at the completion of the week not otherwise exempt guaranteed a start at Royal Liverpool in July.
It will be the sixth held in South Africa this season and the first of three in that country in February, this week’s tournament followed by the Africa Open in East London and two weeks later by the Tshwane Open in Centurion.
The defending champion is Richard Sterne who confirmed a return to his former golf with a victory with a massive seven shot victory over Charl Schwartzel last year.
Sterne’s game is not quite at the same level is was back then having finished second the week before his victory last year but given his liking for the golf course, (he also won here in 2006) then he stands a chance of a successful defence.
Schwartel though is the man to beat this week. The two time winner and runner-up last year has not played since the Volvo Golf Champions event a month ago but is the class player in the field and will start the favourite.
England’s Steve Webster has found some good form in recent weeks finishing 5th in each of the last two events in the Middle East. In his only start in this event in 2013 he had a solid week and although it has been nearly seven years since his last European Tour victory he is not far from the sort of from to give him his third European title.
George Coetzee has a good record at this event and arrives in Johannesburg off the back of a very strong run of form including top fives in Abu Dhabi and Qatar. He has been 3rd, 14th and 7th in his last three times at this tournament so his chances appear good.
Ross Fisher played poorly in the Middle East swing but in earlier events this season did considerably better. He plays this event for the first occasion but he has a good record in South Africa and a much improved week is expected.
The Australians in the field are Wade Ormsby and Brady Watt, Watt in his first year as a professional and playing the event on invitation. One of the world’s leading amateurs before turning professional, West Australian Watt’s progress this season will be watched with interest. He has played only one event as a professional, that coming in Thailand soon after a 14th place finish as an amateur at the Australian Open so he will be no doubt keen to get things moving forward ahead of playing a few events back home in Australasia where he now has a card to play.
Ormsby has made 16 of his last 19 cuts, mainly on the Asian Tour although now with European Tour status again he is putting together several solid tournaments.