Back Burmester for breakthrough in soggy Joburg
Big hitter can lead home challenge
Sky Sports 4, 8.30am Thursday
Tournament starts 4.30am
Palmer's top tip
Dean Burmester 30-1
The third of five European Tour events in South Africa this season starts on Thursday – the 11th Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club – and the low-key gathering represents an excellent chance for Dean Burmester to take his career to the next level.
These co-sanctioned tournaments in the Rainbow Nation provide Sunshine Tour players with wonderful opportunities to earn a European Tour card. Haydn Porteous was a thrilled recipient after winning the Joburg Open last year and Burmester could do likewise on Sunday.
Burmester, growing in confidence at the age of 27, has been a Sunshine Tour champion since 2013 and he won four times on that circuit in a glorious 2015 campaign.
This powerhouse looks ready to claim more prestigious titles as he enters his seventh year as a professional.
Burmester started this year with fourth place in the SA Open, then tied for seventh in a high-class Abu Dhabi Championship.
There was no disgrace in 41st spot on his Qatar debut the following week, and he has produced some solid golf on the Sunshine Tour over the last fortnight, finishing fourth in the Eye of Africa PGA Championship and 17th in the Dimension Data Pro-Am.
Burmester's best effort in the Joburg Open was 13th place in 2015, but the course conditions this week will have him licking his lips. The saturated turf essentially lengthens and widens fairways.
Burmester is a massive driver – only Dustin Johnson and Ryan Fox bettered him for distance in Abu Dhabi – and a soft 7,656-yard track is right up his street.
Driving inaccuracy has been Burmester's downfall in the past, but balls should be stopping quickly after hitting the ground this week, so there is more margin for error in that respect.
Brandon Stone 14-1
The most significant hurdle for Burmester and the other European Tour maidens is Brandon Stone, who is offered at surprisingly generous odds. Stone, winner of the 2016 SA Open and the 2017 Alfred Dunhill Championship, has developed into a world-class player at the age of 23 and deserves to be clear favourite.
Even after factoring in the size of the field (210 go to post) and the possibility of a rain-shortened event, Stone is good enough to warrant a single-figure price.
This lad possesses a textbook swing, had a handicap of plus five in his amateur days and played college golf alongside Jordan Spieth at the University of Texas.
Stone obliterated his Alfred Dunhill rivals in December, humbling Leopard Creek king Charl Schwartzel en route to a seven-shot triumph, and there is no obvious reason why buzzing Brandon should fail to contend in Joburg.
Two Stateside missed cuts in January are easily forgiven – he had no US Tour experience – and he returned to Europe with seventh place in the Dubai Desert Classic.
With plenty of course knowledge and effortless power to draw upon, Stone looks by far the most likely champion for a shootout missing Schwartzel, Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout 50-1
Thomas Detry 40-1
Jacques Kruyswijk 150-1
Erik van Rooyen 100-1
Many bookmakers have chalked up each-way terms with six or seven places for the 210-runner contest, encouraging investments on four other European Tour maidens who carry the firepower to handle this assignment.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout, formerly South Africa's number one amateur, won his first Sunshine Tour event in October and looks to have an extremely bright future.
This stylish operator won the Big Easy Tour Order of Merit in 2015 and was runner-up to Stone in the SA Open last year. He has twice finished fifth on the Sunshine Tour over the last fortnight, warming up nicely for Joburg, where he was 22nd on his debut 12 months ago.
Thomas Detry appears a superstar in the making – the Thomas Pieters clone has made an impressive start to life on the European Tour.
Detry was third in the Alfred Dunhill and returns to South Africa two months later with more good golf under his belt. The missed cut in Dubai should be ignored as he was on the wrong side of a severe draw bias.
Jacques Kruyswijk and Erik Van Rooyen have both recently shed their Sunshine Tour maiden tags and look capable of higher honours.
Kruyswijk is a giant of a man who will relish the Joburg conditions, while local boy Van Rooyen's self-belief has rocketed since he started working with renowned performance coach Dr Sherylle Calder.
Others to note
The injury-plagued Pretorian has twice won this event and the last of his six European Tour victories came in the 2013 Joburg Open when he reached 27 under par to win by seven
The 2014 Joburg Open provided a maiden European Tour triumph for the burly South African. The course-proven dangerman often goes from the sublime to the ridiculous
The Englishman has been on a rapid upgrade and has taken to the European Tour with ease, finishing third in the SA Open. Hectic schedule and Joburg debut are negatives
The aggressive slugger has finished eighth in the last two Sunshine Tour events and is a 200-1 chance who could revel in the conditions
The pride of Portugal has missed three cuts in a row, but he was third in the Nedbank Challenge in November, South Africa's premier event. Could enter the fray at 80-1
The Italian youngster has bundles of potential and should enjoy the Joburg set-up. Worth a second glance at 80-1
2pts each-way 30-1 bet365
2pts each-way 14-1 BetBright, Betfair
1pt each-way 50-1 Hills
1pt each-way 40-1 Betfred, Sky Bet
0.5pt each-way 150-1 Betfred, Sky Bet
E Van Rooyen
0.5pt each-way 100-1 Betfred
Courses The East and The West, Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club, Johannesburg, South Africa
Prize money €1.16m (€153,809 to the winner)
Lengths East 7,656 yards, West 7,203 yards
Par East 72, West 71
Course records – 72 holes 260 Richard Sterne (2013) 18 holes East 63 Charl Schwartzel (2009), Jamie Elson (2011), Tjaart van der Walt (2015) West 61 Charl Schwartzel (2011)
Course winners taking part Richard Sterne (twice), George Coetzee, Haydn Porteous
When to bet By 4.30am tomorrow
Where to watch Live on Sky Sports from 8.30am tomorrow
Time difference South Africa is two hours ahead of the UK and Ireland
Last week – Super 6 Perth 1 B Rumford (50-1), 2 P Khongwatmai (66-1), 3 A Bland (100-1), 4 J Scrivener (50-1)
Course overview Two different tracks are used for this event, which has been staged at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington since 2007.
The East Course is the tougher of the pair and few layouts in world golf can boast more demanding back-to-back par-fours than its tenth and 11th holes (a 518-yarder followed by a 500-yarder).
The 516-yard par-four first and the 253-yard par-three second also make for a brutal start, but two reachable par-fives (the eighth and 18th) provide relief.
A round is played on each course over the first two days, then 36 holes take place on the East at the weekend. The recipe for success is typically three solid rounds on the East and a super-low one on the West, which is 453 yards shorter, with generous fairways and large greens.
Aside from two testers (the 234-yard par-three eighth and the 525-yard par-four 18th), it is a course which is typically overwhelmed by professionals
Story of last year Haydn Porteous, widely available at 150-1 ante-post, cruised to his maiden European Tour title, carding four rounds in the 60s
Weather forecast Heavy rain has been drenching the venue in the build-up to the tournament and more is expected tomorrow, Friday and Saturday. Waterlogging seems inevitable, before a sunny Sunday
Type of player suited to challenge Powerhouses should dominate on the long, saturated East Course. Big-hitters at big prices may be the best strategy for punters, with a weather-shortened event entirely possible
Key attribute Power
Home winner looks a big price
The Joburg Open has been staged ten times and a South African has won seven of them, including six of the last seven, so odds-against about a home winner this week is extremely interesting.
Brandon Stone, the best player in the field and favourite, is South African, with compatriots George Coetzee, Richard Sterne, Jaco van Zyl, Thomas Aiken and Dean Burmester close behind in the Joburg betting.
Promising youngsters like Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Jacques Kruyswijk and Erik van Rooyen bolster the local challenge.
There is only one non-South African at 20-1 or shorter – English raider Jordan Smith.
The field of 210 runners includes 78 South Africans, but their quality and their home advantage provides an edge.
Scott Jamieson did not play particularly well on the European Tour’s Gulf Swing, but expect better in his beloved South Africa, where he won the 2012 Nelson Mandela Championship and can boast four European Tour top-four finishes.
The big-hitting Glaswegian will appreciate the soft fairways and can end the tournament as the leading Scot.
South African winner
3pts 11-10 Sky Bet
S Jamieson top Scot
1pt 3-1 Coral, Hills, Ladbrokes