2022 South African Open Preview, Picks & Analysis
THE South African Open returns this week at Blair Atholl Golf Club in Johannesburg. It is a tournament with a rich history, boasting winners who include 13-times champion Gary Player, Bobby Locke, Ernie Els, David Frost, Retief Goosen, Tim Clark, Trevor Immelman, Henrik Stenson, Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen.
As you would expect, there is a strong home presence, led by the likes of Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace, Dean Burmester, Dylan Frittelli, JC Ritchie, Thriston Lawrence, Wilco Nienaber, Erik van Rooyen and Darren Fichardt.
The past three winners of this tournament have all been home-grown and it would be a big surprise if that didn’t happen again. Grace and Schwartzel both won LIV Golf tournaments this year after spells in the wilderness, and you have to believe that both men will be there or thereabouts again.
Schwartzel said: “I’ve come close a few times and that victory has so far evaded me. It’s one that I would really like to be able to win before I put away the golf clubs.
“The course will be a tough challenge. It’s already one of the longest golf courses in South Africa, and if it gets some rain and is wet that week it will play extremely long. If it’s playing firm, you’ll see some big tee shots because the ball goes a long way there.
“But I’ve always felt that this golf course is a second shot golf course because the greens are the defence. They are big but you have to be very precise with your distance control coming into them. I would say good iron play will serve you very well that week.”
Schwartzel has come close to winning his national Open a few times but has yet to add his name to this historic trophy. He has twice finished second, in January 2005, and then again in 2015 when he lost in a playoff to England’s Andy Sullivan. He also finished fourth in 2010.
(Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)
But look out to for Adrian Otaegui. The 30-year-old Spaniard is in a rich vein of form. He won the Andalucia Masters in October and enjoyed top-20 finishes at both the Nedbank Challenge and DP World Tour Championship, finishing the 2021-22 season in 15th place in the rankings.
He also finished second at the ISPS Handa Championship in Spain and tied third at the Hero Open. His victory in Andalucia was his fourth on the DP World Tour.
When the tournament was played last year it was stripped of its DP World Tour status because of the pandemic and was won by Daniel van Tonder.
Van Tonder, who had registered a maiden DP World Tour title earlier in the year at the Kenya Savannah Classic, posted a final-round 65 at Gary Player Country Club to snatch a one-shot win.
He mixed eight birdies with a lone bogey on the final day to finish on 16 under and a shot ahead of Oliver Bekker.
Van Tonder rolled in a 10-footer at the first and bounced back from a bogey at the fourth to post three birdies in a four-hole stretch from the fifth and a chip-in from off the 10th green.
The 30-year-old picked up another shot at the 11th and fired his tee shot at the par-three 16th to inside six feet to add another birdie, as Bekker birdied his final three holes to sign for a final-round 66 and move alongside Van Tonder on 15 under.
A play-off looked a possibility when Van Tonder - needing a birdie at the par-five last for victory - left himself some 20 feet from the flag with his third shot, only for him to rattle in his putt to take home the trophy. And he will, of course, be back to defend the title.
It was won in 2015 by Andy Sullivan, in 2016 by Brandon Stone, in 2017 by Graeme Storm, in January 2018 by Chris Paisley, in December 2018 by Louis Oosthuizen, in 2019 by Branden Grace, in 2020 by Christiaan Bezuidenhout and last year by Daniel van Tonder.
Blair Atholl is a monster. It can be extended to 8,233 yards and is a par 72. It boasts four par fives that measure more than 600 yards.
Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace have not played a huge amount of competitive golf since defecting to LIV Golf but both men have won this year, and both just love playing on home soil.
Branden Grace. A proven winner
Charl Schwartzel. Would love to add this title to his CV
Adrian Otaegui. Has been in terrific form
Five to Follow:
Branden Grace. Streaky putter
Charl Schwartzel. Great swing
Adrian Otaegui. Big hitter with a silky touch around the greens
Dylan Frittelli. Wonderful short game
Thriston Lawrence. Adores playing on home soil
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