Paul Williams

Paul Williams' South African Open Tips

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Welcome to our 2020 coverage of the European Tour and our South African Open tips. After a few weeks to sharpen our tools ahead of this season, let’s see if we can emulate Steve Bamford’s excellent start to his campaign on the PGA Tour – where headline selection Justin Thomas obliged at Kapalua – and get off to a winning start this side of the Atlantic too.

The new year kicks off in the Rainbow Nation with the South African Open, an amalgamation of the SA Open and what was the Joburg Open to create a monster 240-man field played over 2 courses – more of which later. From there the Tour heads to the Middle East, as is the norm, with the first of the season’s Rolex Series events in Abu Dhabi, followed by the Dubai Desert Classic and the opinion-splitting Saudi International which looks set to boast an outstanding field once again.

The well-received Vic Open returns to the schedule again this year, as does the Magical Kenya Open, however as per last year the first half of the season is fairly lightweight due to the focus on cramming the US tournaments into the first 8 months of the year, with the exception of the Irish Open which has been separated from the pre-Open ‘links swing’ and now sits as a standalone Rolex Series event at the end of May. The French Open assumes the Irish Open’s old spot in the calendar, however sitting opposite the WGC Fed Ex St Jude it’s likely to be a relatively low-key affair.

As well the 4 Majors, we also have the Olympics to look forward to with Justin Rose looking to defend his golf medal, plus of course there’s the small matter of the Ryder Cup at the end of September, being hosted this time at Whistling Straits as Team USA look to use home advantage on a course that’s far more amenable to the average American player than the likes of Le Golf National. All in all, an outstanding 11 months of golfing action sits before us!

Before we go into the detail surrounding our South African Open tips, we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System as the golfing year kicks off. Welcome to you all and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published Tuesday) our Golf Betting Show on YouTube and our hugely popular private Facebook Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

2020 Majors Competition Sponsored By bet365: bet365

Following on from the success of the last 8 annual GBS Majors competitions, bet365 have kindly offered to sponsor the 2020 edition with a massive £250 CASH prize fund! Our 2020 winner will receive £150 (or currency equivalent) in cash with additional £75 and £25 prizes for 2nd and 3rd place finishers.

Basically we want you to pick a single player for each of the 4 Majors any time before the start of the 2020 Masters and get those 4 names entered into the competition by one of the methods detailed on our rules page here. Best of luck all!

South African Open – Featured Bookmaker: betfair

Betfair Sportsbook are attacking this week’s South African Open and are offering a huge 8 places each-way, 1/5 odds. If you haven’t already got a Betfair Sportsbook account then new customers can access their up to £100 in Free Bets promotion. 18+, T&Cs apply: Promo code ZBBC01 required – use this qualifying link to claim.

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Randpark Golf Club in Johannesburg hosts the South African Open for the second successive year and given the monumental size of the 240-man field, 2 courses are used for the first 2 days, namely the Bushwillow and Firethorn tracks. For course form students, Randpark also hosted the 2018 Joburg Open won by Shubhankar Sharma as well as last year’s event where Louis Oosthuizen trotted home by six strokes. The former Open Champion is here to defend his title this week and is the highest-ranked player in the field, both factors fully justifying his place at the head of the market. Eddie Pepperell and Erik Van Rooyen add some further quality to this field, as do the likes of Branden Grace and Charl Schwartzel who both showed some form on their last outing at Leopard Creek.

The in-form Thomas Detry will undoubtedly be popular this week as he continues to search for that elusive first victory on the European Tour, with his World Cup win alongside Thomas Pieters still not satisfying his demands for success, however in a field of this magnitude nothing is given and there are many players who appeal for different reasons.

Course Overview. Randpark Golf Club hosts this week’s event and the two courses used for the event, Bushwillow and Firethorn, share the same parkland characteristics. Tree-lined although not uncomfortably tight fairways and water hazards greet the players, however given winning scores of 23- and 18-under from the past 2 events held here, it’s clearly scoreable when conditions allow
Bushwillow is the shorter of the two courses at 7,114 yards for its par of 71; Firethorn is longer at 7,595 for its par of 72 and the latter will see the bulk of the action with 3 of the (scheduled – see the weather forecast below) 4 rounds being played there. 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 courses play shorter than the card suggests.

south african open tips

Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s South African Open that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well at this event. As noted above, this venue hosted the South African Open last year only in the stats available: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader Stats | Combined Stats.

Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.

Winners & Prices. 2019: Louis Oostuizen, 13/2; 2018: Chris Paisley, 125/1; 2017: Graeme Storm, 150/1; 2016: Brandon Stone, 55/1; 2015: Andy Sullivan, 33/1; 2013: Morten Orum Madsen, 80/1; 2012: Henrik Stenson, 14/1; 2011: Hennie Otto, 33/1; 2010: Ernie Els, 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 5-10mph and temperatures will reach the high-70s Fahrenheit, so in between the potential stoppages for lightning the 2 courses should prove to be scoreable.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors. Stats from last year’s South African Open and the previous year’s Joburg Open give us a little insight into the type of player who might succeed here at Randpark:

2019 Season South African Open

  • 1st, 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)
  • 2nd, Romain Langasque (-12). 327 yards (42nd), 33.9% fairways (57th), 68.1% greens in regulation (19th), 73.9% scrambling (3rd), 1.74 putts per GIR (27th)

In fairly uncharacteristic style, 6-shot winner Louis Oosthuizen triumphed courtesy of his short game and putting as opposed to his normally dependable long game. Similarly 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 fact, last time we visited these parts 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.

2018 Season Joburg Open

  • 1st, 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)
  • 2nd, Erik Van Rooyen (-20). 319 yards (21st), 57.1% fairways (23rd), 90.3% greens in regulation (1st), 71.4% scrambling (4th), 1.75 putts per GIR (47th)

Whilst not quite as pronounced as last year’s 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: In terms of last year’s renewal here at Randpark, eventual winner Louis Oosthuizen had finished 5th on the PGA Tour’s CIMB Classic and 29th at the CJ Cup, before producing a 3rd place finish at Sun City on his last start to suggest that his game was very close.

Prior to that on other venues, Chris Paisley’s incoming form was patchy but the other recent winners had all shown some signs of life before their victory.

Morten Madsen had produced a 66-64 weekend at the Dunhill Links 3 events prior to secure his hitherto biggest cheque of the season at the back end of 2013; Andy Sullivan had also bagged his biggest earning week 3 events earlier by finishing 4th in Turkey; Brandon Stone had secured his first professional title (Lion of Africa Cape Town Open) 2 events prior to winning here in 2016 and Graeme Storm had produced his best effort of the calendar year by finishing 4th at Leopard Creek 2 events before winning:

  • Louis Oosthuizen: 5/13/16/28/24/28/31/58/32/5/29/3
  • Chris Paisley: MC/55/5/3/MC/12/MC/MC/58/MC/23/MC
  • Graeme Storm: 17/7/71/36/62/MC/MC/25/MC/22/4/MC
  • Brandon Stone: 7/35/2/9/6/12/MC/23/MC/6/1/18
  • Andy Sullivan: MC/52/11/MC/3/17/51/47/67/4/21/MC
  • Morten Orum Madsen: 28/58/38/24/MC/14/MC/MC/16/12/51/63

Event Form: Coupled with his recent form, last year’s winner Louis Oosthuizen also had strong South African Open form with 3 top-5 finishes in his previous 5 attempts:

  • Louis Oosthuizen: MC/14/32/12/18/5/3/65/15/3
  • Chris Paisley: 41/MC
  • Graeme Storm: MC/4/MC/39/MC/32
  • Brandon Stone: 39/MC/MC
  • Andy Sullivan: 47/12
  • Morten Orum Madsen: Debut

The Open Qualifying Series continues this week with 3 places up for grabs as players look to sew up an early entry to Royal St George’s here this week. For some that will act as another significant carrot and motivational factor, however how players respond after downing tools for the festive break is always open to debate.

For me, this event will play into the hands of the more aggressive players with soft conditions expected to negate the impact of the altitude to some degree. A lack of accuracy hasn’t proven to be a massive hindrance in recent times here at Randpark; instead finding as many greens as possible from wherever the ball lands and performing well on and around the greens looks like the best formula for success.

My South African Open Tips Are As Follows:

Brandon Stone 2pts EW 28/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfair

The top of the market is dominated by home-grown players, despite a South African winning just 4 of the last 10 SA Open Championships. The case for Louis Oosthuizen is fairly watertight if you can stomach the price that’s on offer: the defending champion comes into this event with 3 top-6 finishes in his final 4 starts before Christmas to his name and he’s made a habit in the past of winning on his first outing of the new year. However for all of his qualities, he simply doesn’t win regularly enough for me to want to get involved at the price on offer.

Erik van Rooyen has a solid claim here based on his runner-up finish to Shubhankar Sharma at the Joburg Open in late 2017; however despite getting the monkey off his back in Sweden, he’s not quite the winning machine that commands such a short price in this massive field in my view.

Shaun Norris has been in great form in Japan and has a 3rd place finish at Randpark to his name, however when he’s teed it up at his home Open in the past he’s struggled in general; Charl Schwartzel on the other hand has an excellent (if ultimately unsuccessful) record in the South African Open, however he’s difficult to judge on the strength of just one outing, albeit impressive, after injury.

Branden Grace and Eddie Pepperell are quality players but not quite at their best in recent times, whereas Thomas Detry has been in great form without winning and that lack of conversion might eventually take its toll on his results until he can discover that formula that gets him over the line. For me I’m happy to begin my team further down the list than all of those players mentioned thus far with 2016 South African Open champion Brandon Stone.

After a slow start to 2019 and a mediocre middle part of the season, the Pretoria man didn’t want the season to end after finding some form that resulted in a tie for 2nd at the Portugal Masters in an event that he featured heavily throughout. 13th on his final start of the year in Mauritius also contained plenty of positives, with the 26 year-old putting his upturn in form down to a return back to basics.

A decision in September to revert back to his powerful draw, a swing shape that allows him to hit the ball harder and further, almost had immediate effect and a new strength and fitness regime has put him in what he describes as his best shape ever. With confidence flowing through his body and mind once again and with some welcome R&R back home over Christmas, I can see him coming out all guns blazing this week in Johannesburg.

When he’s on form, Stone is a match for anyone in this field, as we saw to devastating effect when he beat an excellent Scottish Open field by 4 strokes in 2018 courtesy of a closing round of 60. 20-under was the score that week, 1 short of his 21-under total when winning the Alfred Dunhill Championship at the back end of 2016, in the same season as his breakthrough victory in this event. With soft conditions expected this week, I suspect that’s the right kind of target score to be winning this event and clearly Brandon is comfortable at that kind of level.

7th here at Randpark last year came after a sluggish opening round of 71 left him with work to do to simply make the cut, however he did that with ease in the end and a closing round of 66 tied the best of the day to suggest he’d got fully to grips with this layout. With the power to tame this track and the experience of already having a South African Open title to his name, I can see Brandon seriously contending once again this week. Result: MC

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Haydn Porteous 1pt EW 90/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfair

Johannesburg native Haydn Porteous has all the raw ingredients to contend in his home Open Championship here this week. Long off the tee at 14th for Driving Distance in 2018 and 42nd last year, the 25 year-old should licking his lips at the prospect of a soft Randpark course in his home town this week.

2 of his 4 career victories have come in his homeland – one of which was the now defunct Joburg Open which is a composite part of this event nowadays – and he’s clearly capable of winning at this type of level having also added a second European Tour title to his tally in the Czech Republic a couple of years back. Both of those successes were on courses where altitude is a factor to a greater or lesser degree and he clearly feels comfortable making the mental adjustments in thinner air.

49th here at Randpark on debut at the Joburg Open at the end of 2017 could have been far better as he sat in 12th position heading into Sunday; he bettered that considerably in this event last year when finishing 7th, ranking 3rd for putting in the process as he got to grips with the greens here, breaking in the process a string of missed cuts in his home open that clearly improved with a switch of venue.

2019 wasn’t the best for Haydn – he didn’t manage a single top-10 finish on the European Tour and he eventually scraped his card in 112th place – however there were enough signs of life towards the end of the year to suggest that his form is moving in the right direction.

26th in Mauritius on his penultimate start of the year saw his best putting performance relative to the field of the entire year and 20th in Thailand on the Asian Tour shortly before Christmas saw him lead the field for Ball-Striking as well as ranking 4th for Total Driving. That’s a similar spike in his long game performance to that which we saw immediately before his last win on the European Tour in Prague, and given that he was playing later into the year than most here this week, he should be far less rusty. Result: T45

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Johannes Veerman 1pt EW 80/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfair

Like a number of his compatriots, American Johannes Veerman has ventured overseas in an attempt to fully get to grips with his trade and although at the age of 27 it may have taken a little longer with him than others, there are definite signs that he’s willing and capable of competing at this kind of level.

A win and 3 further top-4 finishes in the first 6 months of his Asian Development Tour career earned him a stab at the Asian Tour proper in 2017 and he came within a single shot of winning the Yeangder Tournament Players Championship that year. It was a similar story the year after, finishing runner-up to Miguel Tabuena at the Queens Cup, however it was performances last year that really caught the eye.

With limited European Tour entries courtesy of his Asian Tour efforts combined with invitations, the Texan finished 17th in Kenya and 4th in Malaysia before rounding the season off with 4 straight cuts made and a successful trip to Q-School to wrap up his card for 2020.

7th at Leopard Creek on South African soil, 21st in Mauritius where he finished with a pair of 67s and 10th at the Australian PGA Championship where he closed with a tied-best of the day 67 all bode well and, with the foundations firmly set, I can see Veerman continuing that progressive form into this year.

Rounds of 70/69 here at Randpark at the Joburg Open at the end of 2017 got him through to the 3rd round; although he couldn’t make the second cut that week, he got useful experience of the track in the process and his powerful long game should be well-suited to the conditions here this week as he seeks a massive improvement on that effort. Result: T13

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Bryce Easton 1pt EW 175/1 (6EW, 1/5) with William Hill

That classic combination of recent form and course form points firmly in the direction of outsider Bryce Easton and although he’s far less well-known in European Tour circles, I’m happy to take an each-way chance on him given the price on offer.

3rd here last year was the Durban man’s best result on the European Tour and 66 to close that event was a score that nobody else in the field could beat as he racked up some good OWGR and Sunshine Tour Order of Merit points into the bargain.

At the age of 32, Bryce has got over the line 3 times in total on the Sunshine Tour – 2 of which came within his first 20 starts as a professional back in 2012 when he looked to be a hot prospect. It’s been largely a struggle since, however a win in Zimbabwe at the start of 2018 hinted at better form before he produced that aforementioned effort here at Randpark a little over 12 months ago.

A year on the Challenge Tour in 2019 looks to have been a solid career move as although he finished 22nd in the final rankings, he still gets limited access to events like this and naturally when he gets an opportunity like this he needs to fully focus on the task at hand.

2nd at the Finnish Challenge was the closest he got last year, however 6th at the Challenge Tour Grand Final was a positive way to round off his season at that level. Since that point, Easton has gained himself 3 European Tour starts and after a false start at Leopard Creek showed some glimpses of form in Mauritius – a 2nd round 64 being the highlight – before bagging a top-10 finish at the Australian PGA Championship before Christmas. It’s a simple equation; however a continuation of that progressive form, combined with last year’s effort here, could spell a juicy each-way payout for backers. Result: MC

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 16:50GMT 6.1.20 but naturally subject to fluctuation.