The seventh renewal of the Joburg Open takes place this week on the European Tour and in its history only two winners of the tournament have not been South African. Charl Schwartzel (pictured) has won the event twice, but is not at his best and other players appear to have better prospects to contend in an event co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour in South Africa.
This is one of just two events on the European Tour schedule that is played over more than one course. The East and West courses at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club stage the event. The first two rounds are played in rotation on the first two days while the East Course only is played over the weekend.
At 7592 yards the East Course is above average in length even by modern standards. That means there will be a premium on distance over accuracy and the big hitters will have an advantage. The course is not too undulating but there are several dog legs and long par-fours. Finding the greens in the correct number of shots and then putting well will be key to good scoring.
The characteristics of the West Course are less significant as only one of the four rounds will be contested over this layout. This is the easier course of the two as the fairways are generous and the track is below average in length. Scoring will be lower on this course but both are at altitude which means the ball travels about 10% further in these conditions.
Schwartzel won this tournament in 2010 and 2011, and the defending champion is Branden Grace who won four tournaments last season. South African players are the leading contenders, and their knowledge of local playing conditions means several of the home players will be competing for the title at the weekend.