Mauritius Open Preview, Picks & Analysis
THE European Tour season may only have just ended, but here we go again, with co-sanctioned events in Mauritius and Australia. South Africa’s Dylan Frittelli defends his title at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open at the Four Seasons Golf Club Mauritius at Anahita, which is surely one of the most stunning venues on the planet. For the record, the tournament is actually tai-sanctioned by the European Tour, Sunshine Tour and Asian Tour.
His victory in this event when it was played at the Heritage Golf Club at the beginning of the 2018 season was his second European Tour title, following the Lyoness Open earlier in the year. It was actually a breakthrough year for 28-year-old Frittelli, who went on to play in all four majors in 2018 after he broke into the world’s top 50. “My victory in Mauritius came at such a key time in my career. It helped me break into the top 50 on the Official World Golf Rankings, setting up a great 2018 in which I played in all four majors for the first time. So it will be special to return to Mauritius with all of those good memories,” said Frittelli.
Frittelli has had nine top-20 finishes on the European Tour, two of which came in tournaments on the Rolex Series, the premium category of events on the Race to Dubai.
Unsurprisingly, he is looking forward to the challenge of the Ernie Els-designed Four Seasons Golf Club Mauritius at Anahita, which is hosting the event for the second time in three years. He said: “The beauty of the island, the resort and golf course at Anahita makes it one of the most memorable weeks on the tour for all of us playing there.”
The tournament was won in 2015 by George Coetzee, in 2016 by Jeunghun Wang and last year by Frittelli.
Austrian Bernd Wiesberger, a four-time winner on the European Tour, has also confirmed his place in the field as he makes his debut in this tournament, looking to put a shocking 2018 behind him. He suffered a serious wrist injury that restricted him to just seven appearances and saw him having to withdraw from the majors as he battled to recover his fitness. The Austrian, whose world ranking has tumbled as a result, now insists that he is fully fit and looking forward to getting his career back on track.
His trials and tribulations do raise an interesting talking point, however. In golf, world rankings are everything. Wiesberger began 2018 inside the top 50 but now finds himself in 153rd position. He is clearly a much better golfer than that but now has to prove himself all over again. Before his injury he would have been assured of entry into all four of the sport’s majors and all of the World Golf Championship tournaments. Right now, he finds himself on the outside looking in. None of this is his fault.
In an era when so much emphasis is put on power, more and more top golfers find themselves suffering injuries. It also happened to Danny Willett and to Joost Luiten, it has all but ended the career of Simon Dyson, and even Brooks Koepka missed a huge chunk of the 2018 season through injury. And then, of course, there is Tiger Woods, whose world ranking fell through the floor while he attempted to recover from a career-threatening back injury. There are other sports that offer ranking protection while players are out through long-term injury. Is it really beyond the powers-that-be to introduce something similar in professional golf?
If a player is ranked, say, 20th in the world at the time he suffers an injury, surely it is not unreasonable for those who run the world rankings to guarantee that when that individual returns then he does so and is still the world’s 20th-ranked player? If he comes back and turns out not to be the player he was when he had to start the recovery process then that, surely, is the time for his ranking to start reflecting where he truly stands within the game. Tournament golf is hard enough without make the challenge even more difficult for these individuals.
It is to be hoped that Wiesberger does return as the player he used to be, but there are, of course, no guarantees. And he now faces the added pressure of having to perform, having to produce a string of good results - and quickly - to get back into the elite top 50.
He remains optimistic, and is looking forward to playing in Mauritius in a tournament that surely wouldn’t otherwise figure in his schedule. He said: “Mauritius is one of the most beautiful destinations in the world. I loved going there as a child for our family holidays and I have played in a couple of pro-ams there over the years. But this time I’m really looking forward to playing in my first AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open.”
Dave Usendorff, Director of Golf at the Four Seasons Golf Club Mauritius at Anahita, confirmed that the course will be a proper test for the field. “The design of this golf course is unique for the island because it is big with wide fairways. Make no mistake, this is a big golf course and off the tips, it’s incredibly long.” For the record, it measures a touch over 7,400 yards and is a par 72.
Dylan Frittelli. Would be no surprise to see him make a successful defence
Bernd Wiesberger. Wouldn’t be here unless he thought he could win
Dylan Frittelli. Hugely impressive ball striker
Bernd Wiesberger. Fingers crossed he is over his injury problems
Jordan Smith. Showed some fine recent form in Dubai
George Coetzee. Former champion with great all-round-game
Matteo Manassero. Lost his tour card so needs to make these chances count
Lee Slattery. Looking for a better season
Nicolas Colsaerts. Still one of the best ball strikers in the game
Alvaro Quiros. Will either contend or miss the cut
Scott Gregory. Just got his card and looking for fast start
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