Africa Open guide
Dave Tindall's preview for this week's European Tour event - the Africa Open at East London Golf Club
By Dave Tindall. Last Updated: 11/02/14 10:07pm
The course overlooks the Indian Ocean
The European Tour tees off in South Africa for a second week running and seventh time overall in the 2014 schedule and this time the venue is East London on the Southern Cape.
However, this event has a particularly low-key feel with the big-name South Africans either playing in the PGA Tour event at Riviera or preparing for the WGC events in Arizona/Florida.
Last week's winner, George Coetzee, had been due to headline the field but his victory has opened up doors and he's now making the 10,000 mile journey from Joburg to Arizona to get ready for the WGC-Accenture Match Play.
Just as it did last year, when Richard Sterne withdrew for similar reasons, that leaves Thomas Aiken as the favourite at 10/1. He could only manage 12th on that occasion although Aiken did win three starts later in India when sent off at 50/1.
There are several Europeans in the field and they include Frenchman Gregory Bourdy, who finished runner-up to South African Darren Fichardt 12 months ago.
The top 11 last year featured six South Africans, two South Americans and three Europeans. South Africans have won all four runnings since the Africa Open started life as a co-sanctioned event in 2010 and they've been the dominant presence in the top five.
As usual, Sky Sports will have live coverage of all four days.
The quirky layout measures just 6,632 yards
East London is extremely short by modern standards, measuring in at just 6,632 yards. The course meanders through coastal dunes and dense, indigenous bush and has some striking views overlooking the Indian Ocean. The course, which has hosted six South African Opens and a number of Amateur Championships, is very undulating and fierce winds can whistle through the valleys. However, the winds are really its only defence and in calm conditions in 2012 Louis Oosthuizen won with 27-under. Sterne holds the course record of 61 (2009) while, that same year, Angel Cabrera came home in 29.
History tells us to select a South African player given how well they perform in their home events.
Thomas Aiken has four straight top 15 finishes here, including a second place in 2010, while he was the joint 54-hole leader last week.
But preference is for Jaco Van Zyl, who has tremendous three-year form figures here of 4-4-2 so looks a near certainty to make a big step up on his steady 22nd in Joburg on Sunday.
He may also take inspiration from watching George Coetzee finally rack up a first European Tour win. Van Zyl has also been waiting a long time to make the breakthrough and these home South African events are by far his best chance.
With Coetzee zooming off to the States, Van Zyl (with 13 Sunshine Tour wins, including three last year) is probably the next cab off the rank so is worth including in a staking plan at 14/1.
Jaco van Zyl: Course specialist
Two less obvious South Africans worth a bet are Lyle Rowe and Danie van Tonder.
Rowe has finished 8th and 22nd in the last two runnings here and knows the course extremely well.
A missed cut last week doesn't look great but he did shoot a 67 in round two and his odds this week are massive - 200/1.
Van Tonder finished ninth last week and says on the Sunshine Tour website: "I've been playing well since the beginning of the year. I love this course. I've played well here before and my game wasn't as good as it is now."
Let's chance him at 125/1.
Finally, on the home player front, Jaco Ahlers is worth a look.
He had to knock off some rust in Joburg last week after a six-week break and, despite shooting a solid 69 on the harder East Course, he missed the cut by a shot after a final hole bogey on the easier West.
Ahlers should kick on here though and the bet I like is for him to finish in the top 10.
He did just that when sixth in the co-sanctioned Nelson Mandela Championship in his previous start before Christmas and two years ago he was 14th here after sitting second at halfway.
Overall he's finishes in the top 10 in 25% of his 48 starts on South African soil since October 2011 so, despite this being a stronger field, the 16/1 for another top 10 seems a fair price.
As for the non South Africans, Shiv Kapur could be the best bet at 50/1.
The Indian won twice on the Challenge Tour last year, including the Grand Final in Dubai.
That got him back onto the European Tour and the next step is a win.
He made all three cuts on the Middle East Swing so has bedded in again and this could be a good chance for him.
Kapur has teed it up just three times in South Africa and can boast a runners-up finish in the 2009 South African Open and an eighth in the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
3pts win Jaco van Zyl at 14/1
0.5pts e.w. Lyle Rowe at 200/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Danie van Tonder at 125/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
2pts Jaco Ahlers to finish in the top 10 at 16/1
1pt e.w. Shiv Kapur at 50/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)