The South African Open Championship would have to be one of the weakest events on the European Tour, with only one golfer ranked in the world’s top 79 among the field.
Major winner Charl Schwartzel is the clear class act among the South African Open Championship entries, with the 2011 Masters Tournament Green Jacket recipient ranked 22 in the world – 58 places higher than England’s Ross Fisher – going into an event that the South African would love to win.
Schwartzel won the Nanshan China Masters title two starts ago but he is definitely not the kind of golfer whom one should jump over at odds of 6.00 with BetVictor to win the South African Open Championship, even though it is a second-rate event. Schwartzel has won only eight of the 245 European Tour competitions in which he has lined up and his PGA Tour strike rate is one win from 87 appearances. Schwartzel is the most talented golfer in the South African Open Championship field and he deserves to be the favourite but his odds are too short to warrant a bet.
South African Open Championship second favourite Fisher, who is trading at odds of 15.00 with Bet365 is another golfer whom one should not back to win event at short odds. Fisher has won just four European Tour titles from 203 starts and his most recent victory on the circuit was three years ago when he won the 3 Irish Open by two shots from Padraig Harrington.
So, with Schwartzel and Fisher making no appeal at their respective odds to win the South African Open Championship and the decision to stage the event at the Glengower Golf Club meaning that there is no recent professional course form on which to base analysis, who are the best bets?
One can certainly make a case for Darren Fichardt, who is available at odds of 51.00 with Bwin. South Africans have a good record in the South African Open Championship – Richie Ramsay in 2009 and Henrik Stenson in 2012 have been the only non-home winners in the last 12 editions – and Fichardt, who knows the Glengower Golf Club better than most of his rivals having played the course regularly during his amateur days, appeals the most of the local brigade. Fichardt has made four consecutive cuts, including a solid 21st spot in last week’s DP World Tour Championship, and he has an affinity with the South African Open Championship, albeit at venues other than the Glengower Golf Club. Fichardt’s sixth place last year was his sixth top-six finish in 14 South African Open Championship starts, including a near miss in 2000.
And another South African contender, Hennie Otto, is worth a second thought at odds of 31.00 with Bwin. Otto knows what it takes to win tournaments and his recent form, albeit in a slightly lower grade of competition, is excellent. Otto won the 2011 South African Open Championship and he made a sound defence last year when he finished ninth. Otto had made the top half a dozen in each of his last three events and the top dozen in each of his last five starts. With the South African Open Championship lacking depth and the market leaders, Schwartzel and Fisher, representing questionable value given their relatively poor win ratios, Otto appeals at odds of 31.00. Certainly one would sooner back Fichardt and/or Otto at double-digit odds than Schwartzel at 6.00.
One considered including Retief Goosen in the South African Open Championship melting pot at odds of 51.00 with William Hill, but the two-time US Open champion has not celebrated victory in an individual event since 2009. Unfortunately, Goosen’s best days are behind him and he does not appeal even though he does have some of the finest South African Open Championship statistics. Goosen won the 2005 South African Open Championship and he has placed in the top six in his five of his six appearances in the tournament.