Scott Jamieson 1.5pts each-way @ 33/1
George Coetzee 1.5pts each-way @ 28/1
Christiaan Bezuidenhout 1pt each-way @ 16/1
Eddie Pepperell 1pt each-way @ 22/1
Robert MacIntyre 1pt each-way @ 12/1
Great news that crowds will finally be permitted at sporting events in the UK but there’s one obvious snag for golf aficionados – there’s nothing for them to see until long into 2021.
All we have left this unique and unforgettable year are two tournaments in South Africa and two in Dubai, the final one, the Tour Championship, which decides the European money list, these days known as the Race To Dubai.
Over on the PGA Tour there’s just next week’s Mayakoba Classic winding down their year in Mexico. Punters will be praying there won’t be a ‘funny’ result like the 300-1 triumph of journeyman Robert Streb at Sea Island, Georgia on Sunday.
Following the 40-1 victory of Denmark’s Joachim B Hansen in Joburg, the European Tour stays in South Africa this week for the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek, next to Kruger National Park with its colourful wildlife visible as you play.
The Joburg Open was Hansen’s first main-tour success at the 146th attempt, coming from three back of South Africa’s exciting new kid on the block Wilco Nienaber who could never shake off his outgunned rival and finally cracked with bogeys on the last two holes.
Without a doubt, we shall be seeing a lot more of the stylish Nienaber, only 20, who can knock it 330 yards off the tee and is being touted as South Africa’s next Ernie Els. Both winner and runner-up turn out again but it was a long, gruelling battle and they may not be able to rustle up their best game so quickly.
If Nienaber can shrug off the disappointment of losing a handsome advantage and see it in the positive light of being a fabulous effort from a young man just starting out, he is more likely than Hansen to shine on this 7287-yard par 72.
Big hitters have taken Leopard Creek apart before, the 22-under and 20-under of Brandon Stone and Branden Grace giving them runaway seven-shot victories in past years.
There’s no Grace this week but Stone arrives on the back of fourth place at Randpark. He can be spectacular as he was here three years ago and again when shooting a last-round 60 to plunder the 2018 Scottish Open. But he isn’t as consistent as he should be.
If a local is to win, classy Christiaan Bezuidenhout, 15th in Johannesburg after flying in straight from Augusta where he made cut, and George Coetzee are preferred.
Without a 17-hour flight and having to adjust his body clock to the seven-hour time-change, Bezuidenhout should perform even better now. Hansen floored the locals last week and this could well be another winner from Europe.
Robert MacIntyre, first and third in the two Cyprus tournaments, is a worthy favourite who knows the course having finished 15th two years ago but at the prices I’m making another Scot, Glaswegian Scott Jamieson, the main bet.
Why pick a serial loser who has gone 210 tournaments since his only win and one fortunate to be recognised as filthy weather reduced the Nelson Mandela Championship to 36 holes on a shortened course?
It’s because Jamieson typically plays his best golf in South Africa. That 2012 victory in Durban apart, he was a one-shot Nedbank Challenge runner-up to Grace in much better company than this at Sun City in 2017 and was again beaten only a stroke by Louis Oosthuizen in the Volvo Champions in Durban.
Most relevantly, Jamieson has posted three top-four finishes at Leopard Creek and warmed up with a solid 20th in Johannesburg last week. Fair enough, all his career he has had trouble completing the job on Sundays but that fragility is built into his odds.
Coetzee, an 11-time Sunshine Tour winner, is another who plays his best golf in South Africa, hardly surprising as he hails from Pretoria. Three of his five European triumphs have come on home soil although not the latest, the Portugal Masters in September.
Eddie Pepperell, sixth at Wentworth in the BMW PGA in October with two high finishes either side of that in Scotland, must also have a big shout in this lesser company.
With no American tournament this week, Sky is giving the Ladies European Tour (LET) a big show, Order of Merit winner Emily Pedersen heading the market for the Spanish Open (or Andalusia Open de Espana if you want to be flash).
The Dane is hot, hot, hot after winning tournaments back to back in Saudi Arabia, although England’s Georgia Hall rather gave one of them away.
She faces stern opposition from local favourite Azahara Munoz who has not been playing too well since finishing runner-up in the Scottish Open in August, and birdie-machine Caroline Hedwall, both experienced Solheim Cup players.
Hedwall is exciting but takes chances which often lead to bogeys. The powerful Swede could take Marbella resort course Guadalmina apart but is risky betting material.
There could be an upset and Indian star Aditi Ashok might provide it at 28-1. German youngster Esther Henseleit won’t be far away either. Ashok, a triple winner in Europe, was heading for a top-five finish in Saudi last week until late bogeys saw her slip to 11th.
Henseleit, a four-time runner-up and 2019 rookie of the year, opened her account in Kenya last December and at 21 looks set for a fine career.
Spain have strong back-up to Munoz in Luna Sobron and Nuria Iturrios but Pedersen will be hard to beat.