The Preview: Joburg Open – Golf Australia Magazine
The Joburg Open is up against the Australian PGA this week while next week sees the South African Open played against the Australian Open.
Many see the situation as less than ideal though with strong local fields lining up for all four events the impact of European co-sanctioning seems somewhat minimised.
The Joburg Open is played for the 15th time this week though moves to a new venue in the Houghton Golf Club.
The tournament has been played at Randpark Golf Club the past three years after a 10-year stint at the Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club.
DEFENDING CHAMPION: South African players have dominated the winner’s circle at this event and Thriston Lawrence continued that trend during a chaotic week in 2021.
Travel restrictions due to Covid shortened the tournament to 54 holes as players scrambled to make their way to the venue then poor weather saw a reduction to 36 holes.
Lawrence opened the tournament with back-to-back rounds of 65 and was four shots in front of countryman Zander Lombard when play was halted on day three and the tournament eventually declared shortly after.
RIGHT: Thriston Lawrence triumphed here last time in somewhat bizarre circumstances. PHOTO: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images.
COURSE: Houghton Golf Club is no stranger to big time golf having hosted the South African Open eight times between 1951 and 1992 and the Alfred Dunhill tournament from 1996 to 2003.
Originally opened in 1926 the course underwent a major redesign by Jack Nicklaus in the mid 2000s after the club sold off their clubhouse to a property developer.
The course was altered significantly in the reconstruction though has generally met with good reviews since reopening in 2009.
However, this event marks the first test of the course as a tournament venue having hosted its last professional event almost two decades ago.
There will be much interest in how the Jack Nicklaus signature design stands up to an elite field with many of the locals playing this week likely having the advantage of seeing the course since it was redone.
Not long by modern standards (it measures just over 6,500 metres) the course’s main defence is fairway bunkering and tricky greens.
Reviews suggest sand dictates much of the strategy from the tee while the undulating greens require pinpoint accuracy to leave realistic birdie chances.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: With such a strong golf culture the locals are always hard to beat in South Africa and nine of the 14 champions to date hail from the home country.
It is highly likely that trend will continue with some recognisable and well credentialled South Africans taking their place in the field again this year.
PGA Tour player Christiaan Bezuidenhout and five-time European winner George Coetzee will be among the favourites as will defending champion Thriston Lawrence.
One of the longest hitters in the game, Wilco Nienaber, will be looking to use that length to overpower the course and if he finds form on the greens could be a genuine threat.
Also representing home chances will be 2016 champion Hayden Porteous, one of a generation of promising players yet to fulfill their potential on the world stage.
Alongside Zamber Lombard (runner-up in 2016) and Brandon Stone they are among the most talented players to emerge from the region though despite some success seem destined to achieve much more.
72-HOLE RECORD: 261 (Charl Schwartzel, 2010)
PAST AUSSIE WINNERS: No Australian has won this tournament.
AUSTRALIANS IN THE FIELD: No Australians are in the field.
Round 1: Thursday (Fox Sports 505 9pm – 2am)
Round 2: Friday (Fox Sports 505 9pm – 2am)
Round 3: Saturday (Fox Sports 505 9pm – 1.30am)
Round 4: Sunday (Fox Sports 505 9pm – 1.30am)
*AEDT, check local guides