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Last week produced an excellent return for GBS followers as 45/1 tip Garth Mulroy won the Alfred Dunhill Championship and George Coetzee picked up 3rd place for an each-way payout. Coetzee led by 4 shots at one point one Friday and traded close to 2 (evens) on Betfair, likewise one of my other tips Jbe Kruger also led by 4 during the tournament and could be traded out for a healthy profit. Let's see if we can get some more positive results this week!
We stay in South Africa this week for one of the oldest national open golf tournaments in the World, the South African Open. The tournament has been played in an official capacity since 1903 and boasts a wealth of history to wade through in order to help shape your selections - not that it will help overly as we're off to a brand new course, opened in 2009, that very few of the players will have played before this week...
Since 1995, 13 of the 16 South African Open titles have ended up in the hands of a South African player - Ernie Els has won 4 in that time (and is the defending champion); Retief Goosen, Tim Clark and Trevor Immelman have all won 2 apiece. Els and Goosen are the only 2 from that quartet attending this week and as you'd expect they're prominent in the betting as 12/1 and 14/1 respectively are the best prices on offer at the time of writing.
The Jack Nicklaus-designed Masai Mara course at the Serengeti Golf Club hosts this week's renewal and promises to be a bomber's paradise with 50-yard wide fairways and immature trees and shrubs offering little protection for the exposed course. At nearly 7,800 yards the course is a brute in terms of length and the shorter hitters could find themselves at a serious disadvantage as the tournament progresses. Other than length, there's a fair amount of water on the course - most notably at the par 5 8th which is played to an island green - however at 576 yards most players will be attacking that with a wedge unless the tees are moved up. Perhaps the biggest test will be the large, undulating bentgrass greens which are limited to around 10.5 on the stimp to ensure they're playable.
Although it's difficult to second-guess what a winning score might be around here, it's fair to say that Nicklaus designs tend to be quite testing affairs (think Muirfield, PGA National) and despite a relatively calm weather forecast I don't see this being a birdie-fest. I'm leaning towards players who enjoy a bit of width and are longer than most off the tee, a good record on bentgrass greens and some positive recent form:
A fascinating betting week for me as there are serious doubts about many at the top of the bookies' lists who I'm willing to strike off: Ernie and the Goose aren't in great nick (to say the least) at present, Dyson may find this too far off the tee and last week's winner, I'd be very surprised to see Garth Mulroy win back-to-back...other than George Coetzee I see little threat from the top half dozen or so players to my top selection this week Thomas Aiken.
Followers of my tips will know that I rate Aiken, particularly on courses with some width off the tee, a requirement for long-driving and above all bentgrass-based putting surfaces. This tournament has all those facets and despite an indifferent run of form, I think you'll find Aiken steps up his performance this week as he looks to become the latest in a long list of home-grown winners of the South African Open.
Having notched his first win earlier this term in Barcelona and having racked up 7 further top 10s in 2012, Thomas fits the bill perfectly here and could well walk away with title number 2 on Sunday afternoon. Since finishing 5th in Castellon, his most recent performances have all been on courses that don't fit his strengths and it's no surprise to me that he's arriving here on what looks like a poor run - I'm having none of that, 33/1 is far too long for a player of his ability in this field and must be taken on. RESULT: T3
We made a small profit from Coetzee last week as he finished in a tie for 3rd, however it could have been so much better for the 25 year-old from Pretoria as he'd worked himself to the head of affairs after 15 holes of his second round before dropping 5 shots in 3 holes. It's to his credit that George recovered from that setback to finish strongly on Sunday and once again this tournament looks like another perfect opportunity for him to break his duck on the European Tour.
As I said last week, don't let the fact that he's yet to win a European Tour event put you off here - he's a four-time winner on the Sunshine Tour so can clearly get the job done, including the prestigious South African PGA Championship earlier this year where he shot a spectacular -27 to triumph. Having gained his card via Q-School for the last 2 seasons, there's no such issue this year as a string of excellent results has propelled Coetzee to a top-30 position in the money list and a guaranteed place in Dubai next month.
In recent times Coetzee has finished 3rd in Portugal and 6th in Castellon before taking a break before last week's 3rd place finish at Leopard Creek - on an open course where his average 300 yard drives (16th on Tour, 5th in the field) will be a distinct advantage, I'm once again expect a very close finish from young George this week. RESULT: M/C
Scot Peter Whiteford is another player who'll enjoy the freedom off the tee here and the wide fairways will give him the confidence to open his shoulders and send most of his tee shots past the 300 yard mark. Inside the top 30 in the field for driving distance, Whiteford is plenty long enough to compete here and he'll be looking to improve on last week's 3rd place at Leopard Creek which has put him within touching distance of a trip to Dubai in a little over a fornight's time - at 62nd on the money list it will only take a solid performance to secure that for him.
Whiteford is the kind of player who should be backed when he's showing form and left alone most other times: despite being a maiden on the European Tour, he's won 3 times on the Challenge Tour - including twice in 3 weeks back in 2007 - plus he's strung positive performances together earlier this term with finishes of 7th (Wentworth), 8th (Celtic Manor) and 4th (Turin) in a 3-week spell of form. Last week's 3rd place finish was an encouraging return to form and the 66/1 looks very generous in this field as he's as short as 45/1 elsewhere. RESULT: T20
Johannesburg resident Kamte makes my team for the second successive week after pulling up a couple of shots shy of an each-way payout last week at a massive 250/1. If anything, this course should suit him even more with the additional width and length required off the tee and, despite being half the price of last week, I'm sticking with the South African for another week as my longshot.
As I mentioned last week, Kamte has a fairly good record in South African-based European Tour events with a top 20 at Leopard Creek in late 2009 before a 4th place finish at the long (near 7,600 yard) Joburg Open a few weeks later. He won his last event on the Sunshine Tour (BMG Classic) in October before last week's top 10 set him up nicely for this. As one of the few player's who's had the opportunity to play the Masai Mara course, I'm thinking a bit of local knowledge could propel James towards the top end of the leaderboard come Sunday afternoon. RESULT: M/C
Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 15:45GMT 22.11.11 but naturally subject to fluctuation.