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Tshwane Open preview

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Once again, on the European Tour, we stay away from Europe, and again return to South Africa, for this years edition of the Tshwane Open.

In 2013 we saw the inaugural staging of this event, at the Copperleaf Golf and Estate, and in 2014 we see a much stronger field make the trip to Centurion, South Africa. Copperleaf Golf and Estate is amongst the longest courses, on the European Tour and at 7,791 yards it falls just shy of the Gary Player Country Club, and the  WGC- Accenture Match Play venue, Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, the two longest courses on Tour.

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As you could of guessed, the set up tends to favour the longer hitters, so Driving Distance will definitely be a factor to consider when making selections this week. Other than distance, converting your chances with the putter will be important, and if a player can hit the ball a long way, especially down the fairway, it looks as though they will have an advantage.

As we have only one year of form to go by, it is not particularly easy to find a winning formula, and as the years go on, patterns will start to appear, just as they do for other events with multiple years of form.

Another big difference this year, is the depth of field this time around, as touched upon earlier. More of the European Tour regulars will be teeing it up this time around, which only makes the task of finding the winner, that more challenging. As a result of this, there will be value to be had, and this makes for a very intriguing betting event.

At the time of writing, the Dimension Data Pro-Am, a Sunshine Tour event has just finished, and a few players, who will be playing this event come Thursday, impressed. It was Estanislao Goya who proved victorious, with a 1-stroke victory over Lucas Bjerregaard, Keith Horne, Jean Hugo and Adilson Da Silva, and Goya, plus all four runners-up are in the Tshwane Open field.

Other notables playing this week, who finished in the top-10 of the Dimension Data Pro-Am are, Jaco Van Zyl and Morten Orum Madsen, both sharing 6th place, as well as Hennie Otto and Warren Abery who tied for 9th place. All of the players mentioned, barring Bjerrergaard, got a glimpse of this course last year, so they will all be hoping to carry their good form into this week.

Of the players above, only three failed to play all four days in the Tshwane Open 12 months ago, with Van Zyl withdrawing, and both Goya and Abery missing the cut. Both Madsen (8th) and Otto (9th) finished in the top-10 last year, and they will both fancy their chances of going well again, especially with good performances a week prior, behind them.

Normally I wouldn’t put too much focus on Sunshine Tour form, but when you’ve impressed a week before, in the same country, it should certainly help with confidence, and could be a big factor, considering there’s little course form here to go by.

The market leader for this event is, recent winner George Coetzee (7/1, who got his first win at the Joburg Open 3 weeks ago, and after a week in Arizona for the WGC- Accenture Match Play, he will be keen to return home, and add to his win total straight away. Many believe Coetzee will go on to win his fair share of European Tour events, after getting his first, and he will be keen to do it again on home soil.

Darren Fichardt 22/1 (General) 1.5pts e/w: I tipped Fichardt two weeks ago, in the Africa Open, and he wasn’t far away from his 5th European Tour win. He ultimately fell short, with Oliver Fisher and Thomas Aiken pulling away in the end, but his good play there was, once again very encouraging.

There’s not a lot to be said about Fichardt that I haven’t covered on numerous occasions, he is a proven winner, especially in South Africa, and I see no reason why he cannot add to his win tally here.

Last year he finished in 2nd place, two shots shy of Dawie Van Der Walt, despite holding a one-stroke lead going into the final round. He is obviously feels comfortable with the course, and had no trouble playing his way into contention, just one week after winning the Africa Open.

He played well again at the Africa Open, finishing in a tie for 5th this year, and I fully expect him to once again, string two good performances in a row together, with him this time getting the win here.

As a 4-time winner on Tour, it’s fair to say he has an advantage over most of the field in that regard, and if he can lead thru three rounds again, I would like to think he’ll convert his chance this time around.

Whatever way he gets himself into contention, I couldn’t bring myself to leave him out this week, despite shortening in price since this morning (was 25/1) and I really do see him featuring come Sunday afternoon.

Morten Orum Madsen 33/1 (General) 1.5pts e/w: Madsen is really establishing himself on the European Tour, and will once again look to be right in the mix here this week. He came 6th last week, in the Dimension Data Pro-Am, the Sunshine Tour event, and this was off the back of a 44th and 23rd in his last two starts.

He looks to be playing solidly again, after two missed cuts, and with a good week under his belt, he will confident of a good week, here at the Tshwane Open.

Last year, Madsen came 8th in the inaugural staging of this event, and he will look to go even better, on his second look at this course.  He has the right game to suit Copperleaf, as he hits it plenty far enough, and is mostly fairly accurate too. He hasn’t been as accurate off the tee, so far in 2014, as he was last year, but it’s early days, and it should come together. He is still amongst the best in terms of distance, and that will only aid him this week.

If he keeps it in the fairway this week, and can replicate what he did here last year, he stands in good stead for a big week. As many of the others in the field, last year was his first look at the course, and since then, he has much improved as a player, so his 8th place finish last year is particularly encouraging.

His first European Tour victory came in South Africa, in the South African Open, so it looks as though this part of the world is a happy stomping ground for him, and I fully expect that to continue here.

Although this is a stronger field compared to last year, he still remains one of the better players in the field, and I would not at all be surprised to see him add to his win tally here.

Lucas Bjerregaard 66/1 (SpreadEx) 1pt e/w: Another Dane is amongst my picks this week, and unlike Madsen, Bjerregaard is still establishing himself on Tour, but you get the feeling it won’t be long.

As well as having the game to suit this course, he’s also in good form coming into this week, with a 2nd place finish in Dimension Data Pro-Am last week, ahead of fellow countryman Madsen, and 9th in the Africa Open the week before. This course should be perfect for him, as he is a big hitter (currently averaging 310 yards off the tee) and also makes plenty of birdies. With the winning score being -21 last year, making plenty of birdies is a must.

Bjerrergard was solid on the Challenge Tour last year, despite not recording a victory, but his last two finishes of 2nd and 18th to send him into the final qualifying stage for a European Tour card, proves he can do it when it matters. Last year, was his first full year on the Challenge Tour, playing just on invites in previous years, and he impressed immediately. He will be looking to do the same this year, this time on the bigger stage.

If he is going to kick start his European Tour career this season, this event looks the perfect platform for him, and with the form he’s currently in, especially in South Africa, there’s nothing to put me off him this week.

It is not a complete surprise that Bjerregaard has started so well in his proffesional career, considering his some what illustrious amateur career, which was highlighted by his European Amateur Championships win in 2010. Of course, this is not something to get hung up on, as professional events are a different kettle of fish entirely, but previous winners of the European Amateur Championships include, last week’s WGC Match-Play runner-up Victor Dubuisson (2010), Rory Mcilroy (2006) and Sergio Garcia (1995) amongst others.

He looks looks to have the winning attitude in him, and I do believe he will get a win early on in his career, so with the golf in Denmark currently booming in Denmark, with the likes of Thorbjorn Olesen and Madsen, along with Tour veteran Thomas Bjorn, all playing well, he doesn’t have to look far for inspiration.

Jean Hugo 1pt 70/1 (SpreadEx) 1pt e/w: Jean Hugo is not a household name on the European Tour, but on the Sunshine Tour, his native South Africa’s tour, he is a proven winner, and one who I can see making the short jump in class this week.

Hugo played well in the aforementioned Dimension Data Pro-Am last week, sharing 2nd place with one of the other selections, Bjerregaard, and I can see him doing something similar this week.

Despite failing to win in the European Tour so far in his relatively long career, he did finish 34th in the Order of Merit in 2001, and that’s not a bad finish at all.

His 14 wins on the Sunshine Tour are an indicator that he can win, albeit at a lower level, but this, like the other events in South Africa isn’t entirely different to those events. He will be comfortable playing against some of the favourites in the field this week, including fellow countryman George Coetzee and Thomas Aiken, and if he can keep to his own game, may well surprise a few.

He finished 21st here 12 months ago, and also won on this course in 2010, when winning the first stage of the Vodacom Business of Origins Golf Tour, beating none other than Charl Schwartzel.

He obviously has a liking for the course, and as a Centurion native, its looks difficult to look past him as an outsider this week, especially considering his 2nd place finish last week.

Total Points staked on the European Tour: 10

Profit/Loss for 2013:  +222.95

This event, coupled with the Honda Classic, this weeks PGA Tour stop, makes for a great betting week, due to the strength of the fields and I am very much looking forward to both. Not only is it a good betting week, but both events should make for great viewing, as the season really starts to pick up pace. Each week, we draw closer to the first major of the year, the Masters at Augusta, and form now will be key ahead of that golden week in April.

Those that are already in the field, will be looking to put multiple weeks of good form together, whilst others will be doing all they can to secure a place alongside the elite, and get a taste of Augusta.