The BMW SA Open is only 33 years younger than the Open Championship, making it the second oldest open on The European Tour. It’s therefore somewhat fitting that it kick-starts the 2018 European Tour Season.
However, whilst this tournament used to carry a lot of prestige, there’s a real lack of big names in South Africa this week. Some of that is because it clashes with the Eurasia Cup which is taking place in Malayasia, though much of it can be attributed to the fact that it’s now a long season that requires lots of travel, and wealthy players have more options to choose where they play.
At least the star South African players are lining-up this week, and both Charl Schwartzel and Brandon Grace will be hoping to get their name on the trophy for their first time. There’s also up and coming South African stars like Dylan Fritelli, for whom big things are expected in 2018.
The tournament is again being staged by the Glendower Golf Club in Ekurhuleni, and this will be the fifth consecutive year it has been staged here. The course is a par 72 that plays in excess of 7,500 yards.
Grace and Schwartzel certainly both have the power to tame Glendower, but Schwartzel struggled to get across the line here having placed in 2015, and has missed the tournament in 2014, 2016 and 2017. Grace also gave the tournament a miss in 2017, having finished fourth in 2016, and I’m happy to leave both out at single-figure odds.
Next in are two improving South Africans in Dylan Fritelli and Dean Burmester but, as both may find the pressure of winning their home open too much at this early stage of their careers, I’ll pass.
Therefore, the first name on the list this week is Jordan Smith, who quickly established himself on the European Tour last season with a third in this event. A European Tour winner since, he’s fancied to put up another bold show having made the effort to travel here.
This year’s Jordan Smith may well be Sam Horsfield who, after winning Q School, is expected to make an instant mark on the European Tour this season, and may do so here in a field lacking real depth.
Finally, it could be worth chancing 2016 runner-up Christiaan Bezuidenhout, as the young South African will surely bounce back from a disappointing 2017 season sooner rather than later.