Joburg Open Betting Tips: Six selections for DP World Tour opener
Collin Morikawa added another title to his already bulging trophy cabinet yesterday, by winning the climax to the 2021 European Tour season, the DP World Tour Championship and taking the Race to Dubai with it. He capitalized on a capitulation from Rory Mcilroy down the stretch but that shouldn’t take anything away from the way he clinically put that tournament to bed to pick up his 6th title in just 60 starts as a pro.
A week later, we enter a new era for the tour, as the European Tour becomes the DP World Tour. Though it’s in very familiar territory that we start the new season, with a triple-header in South Africa. Beginning with the Joburg Open at Randpark Golf Club’s Firethorn Course in Johannesburg.
Joburg Open Tips
- Brandon Stone 33/1 – 1/5 8 places (William Hill) – 1.5 pts ew
- Marcus Helligkilde 40/1 – 1/5 8 places (William Hill) – 1.25 pts ew
- Marcel Siem 55/1 – 1/5 8 places (Paddy Power) – 1 pt ew
- Darren Fichardt 66/1 – 1/5 7 places (Betfred) – 1 pt ew
- Hugo Leon 80/1 – 1/5 8 places (Paddy Power) – 1 pt ew
- Daniel Gavins 80/1 – 1/5 8 places (Paddy Power) – 1 pt ew
Randpark has hosted four co-sanctioned events over recent years. It’s been the venue for the last two Joburg Opens, from Shubhankar Sharma’s win in December 2017 to JB Hansen’s victory here last year. Also being home to two South African Opens since it was renovated in 2015. Louis Oosthuizen the first of those two winners, coming in December 2018, with Branden Grace tasting victory here in January of last year. Important to mention the months of these tournaments, as there’s often been two tournaments of the same name taking place at difference courses in the same year.
Before Hansen’s victory last year, events here had typically been held over two courses for the first two rounds. This Firethorn Course and the Bushwillow Course, with Firethorn hosting the final two rounds. Last year, in the Joburg Open, they played solely at Firethorn and we get the same test this year.
Firethorn is a long 7506 yard par 71, though will play shorter due to Johannesburg being at altitude, meaning the ball flies around 3% further. This has enabled all types of players to contend here over the four most recent visits.
The course is tree-lined though still feels pretty open. Fairways are generous, with rough a little thick in parts but not too damaging and large undulating greens. Danger coming from water that is in-play on six holes throughout the course, most notably on the 16th and 17th holes on a tough closing stretch. Greens are also well bunkered, and you can certainly get yourself into trouble if the ball-striking is off.
Outside the two elite winners of Oosthuizen and Grace, who can often dominate events back home. There’s something very similar about the other two, Hansen and Sharma. Both particularly excelling in approach play and with the event boasting a winning score of -18 at worst in the most recent iterations, I feel it’s a week to predominantly be on those who can hit their irons well.
I identified a few correlating courses that possess formlines with Randpark. Wentworth coming up as one of the most popular. Both Sharma and Hansen have recorded top 10s there, whilst Thomas Aiken, 3rd here in 2018 has recorded finishes of 4th and 7th at Wentworth.
Next up is the Club de Campo Villa de Madrid, that has hosted the two most recent Open de Espanas, in 2019 and this year. Sharma and Hansen again both going well there, recording 3rd and 4th place finishes. Added to that is a 6th for Wilco Nienaber this year, who finished 2nd at Randpark last year and Jack Senior, also 6th in Spain this year has a 6th place finish at Randpark.
A couple more in the shape of the Montgomerie Maxx Royal, host of the Turkish Open from 2013-2015 and once again in 2019. Along with the Himmerland course, which has hosted the Made in Denmark from 2014-2017 and from 2019-now, as well as the 2018 Made in Denmark Challenge on the Challenge Tour. Hansen pops up again at both of those, winning that event in 2018. With Sharma appearing in Turkey. Further to those are performances from Romain Langasque at both events, who was 2nd at Randpark in 2018 and Erik Van Rooyen, who was 2nd here behind Sharma in 2017, also possessing a 2nd place in Turkey.
Finally, an interesting one at Golf International de Pont Royal, host of the Open de Provence on the Challenge Tour since 2018, which could provide clues for those coming up to the DP World Tour. The previously mentioned Romain Langasque won there in 2018, whilst 2019 winner, Lars Van Meijel finished 7th here behind JB Hansen last year.
We may have some tricky weather on the way in the shape of rain and wind. In fact, winds of 15mph+ are forecast throughout the week and if this transpires the scoring could be a fair bit trickier than last year.
An eclectic and exciting field descends on Randpark. Missing star quality but there’s plenty of intrigue in a field made up of European Tour and Sunshine Tour regulars, as well as Challenge Tour graduates from the 2021 season teeing it up. Also, some star South African names in the form of Dean Burmester, who’s been in cracking form on the European Tour this season and Dylan Frittelli heads home from the U.S, for his first start on the European Tour since the South African Open in December of last year.
Dean Burmester expectedly heads the market but is left alone at single figures, followed next by Dylan Frittelli. Though, I’m going to start this week’s selections with another talented South African, Brandon Stone.
The year started so positively for Stone. He picked up a 2nd place finish in the Dubai Desert Classic at the start, a 7th place finish in Qatar three weeks later and a victory at home in the Challenge Tour/Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned Limpopo Championship. Unfortunately, since then he’s had a poor year, missing 10 out of 15 cuts. Though we’ve seen an upturn in form in his last half a dozen starts, as he’s made 3 of 6 cuts and picked up his best finish of the year since that victory, finishing 12th in the Czech Masters.
His record here is excellent. He’s played three times as a professional, with finishes of 7th and 4th separated by a missed cut. Possessing form here right from his amateur days, where he picked up a top 10 in the Northern Amateur Open Championship stroke-play in 2012.
Two of his three European Tour victories have come in his native South Africa and he’s just such a big player when he returns home. With the added positive of him recently gaining his Korn Ferry Tour card, I think he’ll arrive here in a good place and I’m hoping the fresh start of a new season can spark a real return to form.
As mentioned, we have a raft of Challenge Tour graduates teeing it up this week and none appealed more than Denmark’s Marcus Helligkilde. He can continue the recent excellent run by his compatriots and has the game to win on his first start as a full DP World Tour member.
After a terrific amateur career that saw Helligkilde rise to 28th in the rankings, he turned pro in 2017. First going to the conveyor belt of talent that is the Nordic Golf League, where he picked up 12 top 10s in 22 starts in 2018, a first pro victory amongst them.
He followed a tough season on the Challenge Tour in 2019 back on the NGL in 2020. Once again performing to a high standard, picking up another win and hitting the top 10 on 9 occasions. A return to the Challenge Tour beckoned this year and he’s made no mistake of showing what he was all about second time around.
After a victory in his first event of the year on the NGL, he has followed it with three wins on the Challenge Tour, as well as three runner-up finishes. Helping him to a 1st place finish in the Road to Mallorca standings and a much coveted European Tour Card.
Amongst the brilliance on the Challenge Tour this season, he has had a couple of starts on the European Tour, finishing top 25 in both. The first when 25th at home in the correlating Made in Denmark back in May. The second an excellent 12th place finish in the Dutch Open a few months ago, where he was in contention before struggling in the final round. All a learning curve and above all shows he should be ready to go at this level.
With little in the way of stats from the Challenge Tour, we have to rely on the couple of starts on the European Tour to try and work out the type of game he possesses. Iron play the clear standout in both those performances, particularly the Dutch Open, where he ranked 12th but also looked to possess a rock solid short game.
With six victories to his name in only a short career in the lower echelons of the game, I expect this hugely talented individual to take to the main tour right away and if he can reproduce the type of approach play that saw him go so well in the Dutch Open, can make a splash in the first event of the new season.
Back to the Challenge Tour for my next selection, though very much at the opposite end of the experience scale. As Germany’s Marcel Siem got his career back on track this year and earned his way back onto the main tour.
Back in 2013, Siem reached an all-time high of 48th in the world rankings, owing to picking up his 3rd of 4 European Tour titles. Since 2014 it’s been a slow decline for the German and saw him play much of his golf in the last couple of years on the Challenge Tour, but he’s really taken advantage of a victory in France there earlier this year.
Following that win in the Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge, Siem next teed it up in The Open at Royal St George and put up a hugely impressive 15th place finish. Since then he played predominantly on the European Tour, picking up four top 25s in nine starts, the best a 7th place finish at Crans in the European Masters.
Approach play and putting have been the key ingredients in his resurgence and saw him finish the European Tour season 16th in putting and 32nd in approach. A combination of both should see him go well this week.
He’s played here three times since 2015 and made the cut twice. Holding plenty of form in South Africa, including a victory in the Alfred Dunhill Championship back in 2004, I think the classy Siem can complete the comeback this week and re-enter the European Tour winner’s circle.
Darren Fichardt has had a solid year and I think he looks a big price back home this week if able to find something with the putter.
That solid year has seen him miss just 3 cuts in 19 starts and pick up 9 finishes in the top 25. Coming in a mixture of European Tour and Sunshine Tour events. Amongst them are two top 5s on the European Tour. The best a 2nd place finish in the Qatar Masters at the start of the year, the other a 5th in the BMW International Open in June. Though he’s continued to make cuts, he hasn’t quite been able to match that level of performance towards the end of the year.
This has undoubtedly been down to problems with his short-game, particularly the putter. However, one aspect of his game has continued to shine, his iron play and I found that too hard ignore this week.
He’s gained strokes in approach in 9 of his 12 recorded starts this year and this led to him finishing the season as the number one ranked player in this regard, though obviously slightly skewed due to him playing fewer events than others. He only finished 59th on his last start in the Dubai Championship but showed he maintained that form, ranking 4th in approach.
He had a poor recent record here but rectified that last year when finishing 11th. He holds a hatful of victories in South Africa, as you’d expect, as well as form at the correlating Wentworth, finishing 7th there in 2018.
I’m hoping that a return home can spark a bit of life into the putter this week. If it does and he continues to hit his irons as he has been doing, he should be a big danger.
Having spent most of his career playing across many of the world’s tours, Hugo Leon was kind of a new name to European Tour viewers when he earned his tour card for the 2019 season. He had a really solid year then, finishing inside the top 10 on 4 occasions but due to missing most of last year and the beginning of this, has found himself back on the Challenge Tour this season.
He’s once again impressed, picking up a title in the British Challenge, also picking up 2nd and 4th place finishes elsewhere. Added to that, he’s teed it up six times on the main tour this year, making four cuts and picking up a more than respectable three finishes in the top 16
Those few starts in Europe this year have given little insight into his game, though he seems to have predominantly got by on his short game. If we go back to 2019, we actually see a player who was excellent tee-to-green, and he ranked an incredible 5th in that respect two years ago.
He’s played here once, missing the cut, though does possess form at the correlating Open de Provence on the Challenge Tour. Playing there twice and finishing 4th on both occasions, boosting his chances.
If still possessing the superb tee-to-green game that helped him so much on tour in 2019, he has the game to contend this week and can go as well as any of the other Challenge Tour graduates.
There’s a bunch of Sunshine Tour players to look out for here. The hugely talented Jayden Schaper appealing the most. He has an excellent record at Randpark and is going to be a real player in the future, though I was a little put off by how difficult he’s found it to get over the line on the Sunshine Tour this year, thus I find it hard to see him rectifying that here in the first event of the South African swing.
Instead, my final selection goes to England’s Daniel Gavins. Who burst onto the scene and picked up his European Tour card in superb fashion, winning a maiden pro title in the ISPS Handa World Invitational and has continued to perform with credit on the tour.
Gavins turned pro back in 2012 and spent most of his early years as a professional jumping between starts on the European Tour, Challenge Tour and Europro Tour. This year he’s found a new level with his game, even before that win in Northern Ireland.
Outside of that victory he’s picked up 6 other top 10s, which equals the amount of top 10s he’d achieved in pro events in the other seven years of his career in total. He initially struggled after the victory but has found some form again recently, with finishes of 6th and 11th amongst his last 5 starts, both in quality events. The 6th coming in the Dunhill Links, the 11th at Valderrama in the Andalucia Masters.
A feature of his game, particularly in recent weeks has been quality approach play. He ranks 17th in last season’s approach rankings and the last time we saw him, when finishing 44th in Dubai, he led the field in approach. Being let down by a poor week on the greens.
He’s played here twice, missing the cut each time but is a much better player now and should be playing with a new-found level of confidence. If able to replicate the iron play from last time out and correct the issues with the putter, Gavins can get off to a hot start in the new season and be crowned as the first winner of the DP World Tour era.