Course Overview. The Firethorn Course at Randpark Golf Club hosts this week’s event and will be familiar to followers of the European Tour as it’s been used for 3 of the 4 rounds at each of the past 2 South African Opens, plus this event itself when it was last played in 2017. Bushwillow was the course that hosted the other round in those mammoth fields of the South African Opens and the last Joburg Open, however for this week we’re focussing on the longer Firethorn only.
Tree-lined although not uncomfortably tight fairways and water hazards greet the players for this parkland setup, however given winning scores of 23-, 18- and 21-under from the past 3 events held here, it’s clearly scoreable when conditions allow
Firethorn stretches to 7,506 yards for its par of 71 with the 2nd hole converted to a long par 4 this year, however Johannesburg is at altitude though so, as ever for events in this neck of the woods, the ball flies further through the air and will make the course play shorter than the card suggests.
Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s Joburg Open that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well at this event. Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader Stats | Combined Event Stats | Combined Course Stats
Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.
Winners & Prices. 2017 (Dec): Shubhankar Sharma, 66/1; 2017 (Feb): Darren Fichardt, 90/1; 2016: Haydn Porteous, 150/1; 2015: Andy Sullivan, 16/1; 2014: George Coetzee, 11/1; 2013: Richard Sterne, 18/1; 2012: Branden Grace, 35/1; 2011: Charl Schwartzel, 4/1; 2010: Charl Schwartzel, 9/1.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Johannesburg is here. Sunshine and showers have been the order of the day for the lead-up to this year’s renewal and more of the same is expected throughout the 4 days of tournament play.
Winds are expected to be light at 5-12mph and temperatures will reach the high-70s Fahrenheit, so in between the potential stoppages for lightning the course should prove to be scoreable.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors. Stats from the last 2 years’ South African Open and the previous 2017 Joburg Open held here give us a little insight into the type of player who might succeed at Randpark:
- 2020, Branden Grace (-21). 298 yards (47th), 57.1% fairways (8th), 69.4% greens in regulation (29th), 81.8% scrambling (2nd), 1.64 putts per GIR (4th)
- 2018, Louis Oosthuizen (-18). 348 yards (12th), 35.7% fairways (54th), 64.8% greens in regulation (36th), 73.7% scrambling (4th), 1.63 putts per GIR (2nd)
- 2017, Shubhankar Sharma (-23). 305 yards (39th), 64.3% fairways (12th), 72.2% greens in regulation (31st), 80% scrambling (1st), 1.60 putts per GIR (3rd)
The stats from the 3 most recent winners on this track tell a similar story. Branden Grace secured a 3-stroke victory over compatriot Louis Oosthuizen as a result of his performance on and around the greens. Similarly the year before, 6-shot winner Louis Oosthuizen also triumphed courtesy of his short game and putting as opposed to his normally dependable long game. 2nd place finisher Romain Langasque hit a little over 1/3 of fairways and again had to rely on getting up and down to help compile his overall total.
In that event, no player in the top 6 hit more than 50% of fairways and none of them managed 70% of GIR, which put the emphasis very much on short game performance.
Whilst not quite as pronounced as the South African Open, the Joburg Open held here at the end of 2017 did produce a similar story with the top 6 finishers ranking 1st, 4th, 5th, 2nd and 6th for scrambling on the week.
Incoming Form: The incoming form of the three winners here at Randpark for both the South African Open and the 2017 Joburg Open paints a fairly consistent picture, with a top-10 finish in one of their last two starts for each of the eventual winners:
- Branden Grace: MC/51/48/30/MC/60/MC/MC/46/MC/39/3
- Louis Oosthuizen: 5/13/16/28/24/28/31/58/32/5/29/3
- Shubhankar Sharma: 66/MC/26/24/MC/MC/MC/21/24/18/10/27
And further back as the Joburg Open at its previous venues the story is similar, with only Darren Fichardt and Haydn Porteous harder to find in terms of current form:
- Darren Fichardt: MC/16/MC/MC/31/MC/26/MC/66/32/48/53
- Haydn Porteous: 5/MC/5/MC/6/28/35/15/17/36/MC/MC
- Andy Sullivan: 17/51/47/67/4/21/MC/1/57/19/4/47
- George Coetzee: 56/71/MC/57/74/12/32/20/MC/MC/4/5
- Richard Sterne: 39/41/8/46/MC/MC/50/20/51/91/7/2
- Branden Grace: MC/13/33/MC/MC/MC/18/MC/30/MC/9/14
- Charl Schwartzel: 58/18/5/57/9/16/MC/MC/21/2/4/4
- Charl Schwartzel: 6/48/MC/23/6/40/5/11/53/2/26/1
Event Form: Firstly a quick look at the course form here at Randpark of the 3 winners around these parts:
- Branden Grace: 7
- Louis Oosthuizen: Debut
- Shubhankar Sharma: Debut
The same 3 players plus the other tournament winners of the Joburg Open in terms of event form are as follows:
- Branden Grace: 63/MC/51/13/1/MC
- Louis Oosthuizen: 19/32/10/12
- Shubhankar Sharma: Debut
- Darren Fichardt: 47/52/30/MC/46/25/MC/18/53
- Haydn Porteous: 24
- Andy Sullivan: MC/60/5
- George Coetzee: MC/MC/7/14/3
- Richard Sterne: 17/1/12/44/60/MC
- Branden Grace: 63/MC/51/13
- Charl Schwartzel: 19/14/4/1
- Charl Schwartzel: 19/14/4
The 3 recent events held here at Randpark have followed a similar pattern each time with a player’s performance on and around the greens trumping long game excellence. Accuracy and GIR stats are generally quite low here from what we’ve seen thus far, however scoring is still low and birdies still very much the order of the day.
The altitude here takes the sting out of the card in terms of distance and I suspect that with some wet weather forecast, maximising chances on the greens through strong approach play will be a little more of premium here this time around, however ultimately a warm putter will be needed to get to the winning total.
My selections are as follows: