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Despite the paltry prize fund of €1 million on offer this week, the South African Open still attracts some top quality players due to its history and prestige - with the likes of Ernie Els, Tim Clark, Retief Goosen, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen in the field this event demands some serious attention. Outside of the Open Championship, this is the longest-serving tournament in the world and as an added bonus this event now attract OWGR points to those lucky enough to finish at the top end of the leaderboard.
The 100th South African Open is returning to the Durban Country Club for the 17th time this week - the last time we were here was in 2005 when Tim Clark demolished the field with a 6 shot victory - the results from this event have been built into this week's predictor, plus you can see the final leaderboard here: 2005 SA Open Leaderboard.
At 6,732 yards this par-72 is a distinctly different challenge to last week - shot-making will be key here, plus with newly laid Bermuda greens I would expect a quite different looking leaderboard to that at Leopard Creek. Strategic placement off the tees is crucial; a short, accurate type who can plot his way around the course is likely to succeed if the putter's warm - yes, it's no surprise that Tim Clark is the defending 'course champion' and bookies favourite!
Similar to St Andrews in a lot of ways, this course is relatively straightforward in benign conditions - if the wind blows it can be a very different challenge. At the time of writing a late/early tee time combination may be advantageous although it may well even itself out over the 4 days.
Looking at the favourites, Tim Clark is an obvious choice but at 8/1 his form of 1 top-10 in 9 PGA Tour performances hardly inspires confidence, despite his excellent victory at Sawgrass earlier in the year. Ernie Els is sure to attract good money having won on this course back in 1998, however he's not been putting well in truth since his 2 victories back in March and that may prevent him winning this title once again. Goosen got himself into a winning position a number of times in 2010 without converting - I'd expect him to be around the top 10 again this week without really troubling the bookies...
My tips for this event are as follows. To read my spread betting tips for this event (which showed 16.5 Points of profit last week) click here: SA Open Spread Betting Tips
I successfully steered away from Schwartzel at 11/2 last week, however now's the right time and price to get involved. Granted 10/1 isn't going to make us rich, however a top 5 finish will close to double our money and that's the very least we should expect from the World number 37.
Last week's runners-up finish was a timely reminder of what Charl is capable of when playing South Africa - he finished in the same position in 2009 before winning 2 of his next 3 tournaments, one of which was crucially at East London GC with very similar greens and not a dissimilar setup to Durban CC.
Schwartzel finished second to Tim Clarke on this course back in 2005 and will be looking to exact some revenge on his compatriot, as well as completing a quartet of victories in all 4 South African tournaments since 2005 when he picked up his first European Tour win at Leopard Creek. RESULT: 4th
Open Championship winner Oosthuizen will be keen to prove he's not just a one-trick pony this week as he plays in his native South Africa for the first time since his St Andrews triumph. He'll feel some distinct similarities here to the home of golf and, despite missing the cut last week, I think we'll find a much stronger showing from Louis here.
Oosthuizen has some positive form in this event to draw upon - 12th here in 2005 on this course is encouraging given that he's a much, much better player now; he would have won this in 2007 if it weren't for a disastrous first day 78 when eventually finishing 3rd. He also finished in a tie for 5th back in 2006 and has 3 more top 20s to his name over the years.
Despite that missed cut last week, the South African is still in relatively good form with 3 top 10s in his last 7 starts, plus a creditable 13th in Dubai. Out of the remaining South Africans heading the field, I feel that Oosthuizen is the most likely to be keeping Schwartzel company coming down the stretch this week. RESULT: 3rd
It's interesting to see Taylor on a rare foray into Europe this week on a sponsor's invitation - however this should be a course which suits him down to the ground. Taylor is one of golf's tacticians who plots his way around a course - that's exactly the kind of player that will succeed around here.
Taylor recorded 6 top 10s on the PGA Tour last season, most recently a tie for 5th at The Barclays. A strong putter who performs on any surface will be looking to grab some of the OWGR ranking points now on offer for this event and propel himself into the World's top 100 with a strong finish. RESULT: M/C
Welshman Price is in a rich vein of form at present with a top 10 and another 2 top 20s in his last 4 starts; this course sets up beautifully for the straight-hitting 44 year-old and he's a great outside bet this week. His ironplay at leopard Creek was has strongest point - let down only by his putter - however these greens should be more to his liking and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him in the mix on Sunday. RESULT: M/C
Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 17:30GMT 14.12.10 but naturally subject to fluctuation.