Tshwane Open Preview, Picks & Analysis
IF YOU are in any doubt about how the European Tour can change people’s lives, just go back 12 months to the Tshwane Open at Pretoria Country Club. At the start of the week, Dean Burmester had no playing privileges on tour having finished in 140th place in the previous season’s Race to Dubai. He was 27 years old and was facing an uncertain future, but a top-10 finish at the South African Open got him into the field for the Abu Dhabi Championship, where he ended the week in seventh place.
With his confidence on the rise, Burmester arrived in Pretoria believing that big things were going to happen. And he was right. The South African fired a closing round of 65 to win his maiden European Tour title and, suddenly, his life was back on track. He had reached the turn in 29 and led the field by six, but then the enormity of what he was about to achieve kicked in. He came home in level par, allowing Jorge Campillo and Mikko Korhonen to get within three shots.
But all that mattered for him was that he held on to become the fourth South African winner in the five times this tournament has been played. It was won in 2013 by Dawie Van Der Welt, in 2014 by Englishman Ross Fisher, in 2015 by George Coetzee and in 2016 by former Masters champion Charles Schwartzel.
And Burmester’s reaction? "I couldn’t believe that I had finally done it. Lots of friends and family had said to me, ‘We're coming up next week so you better win in front of us' and I'm glad that I did it. I sharpened my teeth as a youngster on the Big Easy Tour here at home and had five seconds in one year and then two years later I had four wins on the Sunshine Tour. It's gone strength to strength and now I'm a European Tour winner and that sounds great.”
He has played well enough this season without setting the heather on fire but cannot wait to get back to Pretoria.
Another man who will be looking forward to the week is 2015 champion Coetzee, who has endured an alarming fall down the world rankings. Not so long ago he was comfortably inside the top 50 and enjoying all the benefits that come with that status – bonus payments from sponsors, direct entry to the majors and invitations to take part in the World Golf Championship events. He is now well outside the top 100 and is stuck in a vicious circle, knowing that his only way back is by winning tournaments. And the longer you go without a win, the harder it becomes to achieve.
South African golf is in rude health right now, which means that not only does Coetzee have to see off the cream of the European Tour, but he also needs to overcome the challenge of a host of hugely talented young players from his own country. Coetzee is a hugely impressive ball striker but his problem is that there are an awful lot of great ball strikers on the European Tour now – and it is no longer enough just to be able to pound the ball 300 yards. Coetzee has always been a wonderful putter but struggles with his pitching and chipping. He has spent an enormous amount of time trying to put it right and there is a sense that when everything finally clicks for him he will start winning on a regular basis once again.
Scott Jamieson returns with a point to prove. He went into the final round last year in great position to win after opening rounds of 67, 65 and 68 but he suffered a last-day meltdown, throwing shots away like confetti as he stumbled to a horrific round of 78. In the end, he finished 12 shots behind the winner. It could have destroyed his season but, to his credit, the Scot pulled himself together and comfortably retained his card, the highlight coming at the Nedbank Challenge, where he finished second to Branden Grace and picked up the biggest cheque of his career.
Dylan Frittelli. Climbing the rankings quickly
Brandon Stone. Only needs to find some consistency
Dean Burmester. Hits the ball a mile
Dylan Frittelli. Full of confidence
Brandon Stone. Has the game to become one of the very best
Dean Burmester. Good memories of this venue
Thomas Aiken. Solid and consistent
Darren Fichardt. Does it his own way
Haydn Porteous. Beautiful golf swing
James Morrison. Looking to rediscover his best form, capable of low scoring
Jorge Campillo. Moved up a level at the recent Maybank Championship
George Coetzee. Needs a good week soon
Jaco Van Zyl. One of the best swings in the game
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