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The South African Open: Daniel van Tonder Defends the Trophy

Written by: Matt Cooper
Updated November 29, 2022
11 min read
  • One of golf’s oldest national championships - first played in 1903

  • Daniel van Tonder defends the trophy he won at the Gary Player Country Club

  • Blair Atholl Golf & Equestrian Estate hosts for the first time

The South African Open Odds

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Dean Burmester



Branden Grace



Thriston Lawrence



Adrian Otaegui



Charl Schwartzel



George Coetzee



Hennie Du Plessis



Daniel van Tonder



Louis De Jager



Oliver Bekker



The South African Open Picks and Predictions

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South African Open Predictions

The South African Open Profile

First played in 1903, the South African Open’s honors board has been dominated by the home stars with Gary Player winning 13 editions, Bobby Locke doing so on nine occasions and, in modern times, Ernie Els has lifted the trophy five times.

Although a DP World Tour event since 1997 it has never drawn the strongest field owing to a spot in the schedule either at the end or the start of every year.

That profile is repeated this year.

There are South African stars, but they lack the multiple major championship-winning quality of Els and Retief Goosen, while the European visitors are journeymen rather than big names.

Course Report

Gary Player likes to boast that he’s the most traveled athlete in history, citing over 15 million air miles throughout his career.

The course at Blair Atholl Golf & Equestrian Estate, built on the farmland he was born and brought up on, narrowly fails to maintain such high standards and is merely believed to be the third-longest layout in the golf world at a mammoth 8,233 yards.

Sitting as it does on the high veldt around Johannesburg altitude somewhat mitigates against this brutal length but with four of the five par-5s above 600 yards and five of the par-4s over 500 yards it really is quite the beast.

The Favorites

It took Dean Burmester a little while to graduate from the Sunshine Tour to the DP World Tour but after six fine campaigns on that circuit, he has now, courtesy of finishing 18th in the rankings last season, earned a move to the PGA Tour.

He opened his season there with fourth place in the Sanderson Farms Championship and has made four cuts in five starts in all.

He has plenty of length from the tee, but he’s not the most ruthless of winners for a favorite.

Quietly Branden Grace has become an exceptionally consistent performer in his national championship.

He’s made 12 starts and missed just one cut with nine top 25s including half a dozen top 10s.

But in his last four appearances, he’s even better, never-ending a week outside the top 10 and he was a winner in his last start in 2020. He was also ninth last time out in the Nedbank Challenge.

The only market leader with competitive course experience is Thriston Lawrence who carded a final round 64 to finish sixth in a Sunshine Tour event in October last year.

A two-time winner on the DP World Tour last season he has rediscovered his form in the autumn.

He had an odd time of it last week, however - two 66s to start and finish, either side of a pair of 73s.

Schwartzel Can Land the Title That Eludes Him

There was once a time when Charl Schwartzel would be among the favorites without any questions asked.

He’s a major champion (winning the 2011 Masters), a winner on the PGA Tour, a two-time winner in Europe and he’s lifted nine trophies on home soil, eight of them co-sanctioned with the DP World Tour.

He’s a class act and this summer he also added a victory on the new LIV Golf circuit.

But it’s his move there that has the books doubting his case this week. 

That, however, seems odd because when last seen he opened with rounds of 64-67 to sit inside the top three before finishing ninth in the Jeddah event.

He missed the cut the last time he played in this tournament but before that he finished in the top five in five of six championship starts.

Moreover, in three of the last four of those efforts, he held a solo lead at some point during the week.

He’s been underrated this week.

Take him each way in the outright at +2200 with Caesars Sportsbook, a good price paying out six places.

Nienaber Can Put Length to Good Use

When Wilco Nienaber turned professional much was expected of him, not least because it was immediately apparent that he could hit the ball immense distances from the tee.

He’s not had a terrible time of it in the paid ranks, but he really hasn’t performed to expectations.

Perhaps this week that will change.

That length from the tee should be an advantage and it’s also true that he has a fine record on Gary Player-designed courses - he was 11th in this tournament at Gary Player Country Club in 2020 and third at the same venue in last year’s Vodacom Origins Final.

He’s also a fine performer at altitude and not only in and around Johannesburg. He thrashed a 63 early in his DP World Tour career in Crans and was sixth in Madrid.

He made a bright start last week with two 67s in the Joburg Open to sit inside the top 10 before drifting to 24th.

He can build on that this week.

Take him each way with Unibet going +3300 and offering six places.

Where There’s a Wu There’s a Way

China’s Ashun Wu has a superb record at altitude.

He’s 5-for-7 at landing a top 40 in and around Johannesburg, 2-for-4 in Crans, 3-for-4 in Madrid and was a winner on his Kenyan debut in March.

That’s an 11-for-16 top 40 rate in all and Bet365 prices him at an attractive +100 to land another one this week

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How to Watch The South African Open

  • Tournament: The South African Open

  • Location: Blair Atholl Golf & Equestrian Estate

  • Date: Thursday, December 1 - Sunday, December 4

  • How to Watch: Thursday & Friday 6-10 a.m. ET on Golf Channel. Saturday & Sunday 6-11 a.m. ET on Golf Channel. And all four days on Sky Sports.

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Matt Cooper

69 Articles

Matt Cooper has been a sports journalist since 2009 with his work appearing at ESPN, Sky Sports, NBC, Sporting Life and the Planet Sport Network among many others, in addition to guest appearances on the BBC and CNN. Although a specialist in golf, who has traveled the world to cover the sport, Matt has also covered rugby, cricket, football and the Olympics. Email: [email protected]

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