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Can Coetzee keep the home fires burning?


With the bulk of Europe's best playing in the WGC-Mexico Championship this week, the European Tour's alternative Tshwane Open at Pretoria Country Club in South Africa gives the Tour's lesser mortals an easier chance than normal of picking up a title and everything that goes with it.

And if the British bookmakers have got their sums and assumptions right, home favourite George Coetzee at 12/1, Swede Alexander Bjork and American Julian Suri at 18/1 and a second Swede, Marcus Kinhult at 22/1 should be the men going at it hardest when the front runners come pounding down the final stretch on Sunday. 

This mix gives Europe a three to one chance of winning on Sunday, but the history books refutes this, showing that since the first Tshwane Open in 2013, local favourites have won four of the five, these being Dawie van der Walt (2013), George Coetzee (2015), Charl Schwartzel (2016) and Dean Burmester (2017).

Coetzee is back and ready to carry his nation's flag again to a second Tshwane victory on a course where he cut his golfing teeth and knows like the back of his hand, but with Bjork, Suri and  Kinhult in the field this time, he can expect to face some long hard days.

Bjorn comes out of his rookie year in 2017 boasting a T2 in the Hong Kong Open, a T6 in the recent Dubai Desert Classic and two Top 20s in Oman and Qatar. 

Also, he knows how to play the Pretoria Country Club Course, having carded a 65, a 67 and a 68 there last year for a share of the lead after each of the first three rounds, before a closing 71 saw him slip back into a tie for 5th. 

Suri also has a record that sets him up as a threat. He comes into this week's duel with a top ten in the 2017 DP World Tour Championship, a  T2 in the Hong Kong Open and top fives after 18 holes at both Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach this year.

Kinhult, meanwhile, won't be keen to recall that he missed the cut in his first four South African tournaments, but would rather prefer to remember that he closed with a 66 and a 69 in last month's South African Open where he tied for 12th and then strode confidently to an impressive T3 last week in Qatar.

Getting back to the South African challenge, two of the locals most likely to keep the Tshwane Open Trophy at home again if Coetzee fails are in-form Eric van Rooyen, currently his country's highest-ranked player in the Race to Dubai, or solid and dependable Richard Sterne, a two-time winner of the Joburg Open who tied for 4th in his one and only previous appearance here in 2016.

Summer Rain can often be a problem for tournaments played up here on the Highveld, but if our boffins are right, we can exected four glorious days of sunshine, no rain and very little wind this week.

And the course? Opened in 1910, Pretoria Country Club is set in the upmarket suburb of Waterkloof and is renowned for its scenic beauty.  

Originally designed by Bob Grimsdell and re-designed by Gary Player in 2004, this par-71, 7081-yard course which attracts numbers of exotic birds to the chestnut and maple trees that line its picturesque fairways, will, because it sits at around 5,000 feet above sea level, play a lot shorter than an equivalent 7,000-yard course at the coast, but don't expect this fact to make it a pushover. It's anything but.

Perhaps it's standout moments since becoming the venue for the Tshwane Open Three years ago was when Morten Ørum Madsen closed off his first round with a dream finish.

The Danish golfer followed up a hole-in-one at the par three 8th hole with an eagle at the par-five 9th!

(Tuesday a.m. Feb 27, 2018)

George Coetzee 12/1
Alexander Bjork 18/1
Julian Suri 18/1
Marcus Kinhult 22/1
Erik van Rooyen 25/1    
Richard Sterne 28/1
Shaun Norris 33/1
Benjamin Hebert 33/1
Jacques Blaauw 33/1
Scott Vincent 33/1    
Jeff Winther 35/1    
Aaron Rai 35/12    
Haydn Porteous 45/1    
Justin Walters 45/1
Maximilian Kieffer 50/1
Peter Karmis 55/1    
Hennie Otto 55/1
Keith Horne 55/1
Rhys Enoch 55/1    
Kyle McClatchie 60/1
Jaco Ahlers 60/1    
Jacques Kruyswijk 60/1
Thomas Aiken 66/1
Nino Bertasio 60/1    
Romain Langasque 60/1    
Andrea Pavan 66/1. 

NOTE: For all the latest odds go to 

For betting odds visit BetWay

Neville Leck

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