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Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Young Christiaan soldier primed to prevail

Bezuidenhout ready for breakthrough

Christiaan Bezuidenhout is on familiar territory this week
1 of 1

Tournament starts 5am Thursday
Live on Sky Sports from 8.30am

South Africa's finest players are competing in Mexico for WGC mega-bucks, so local lad George Coetzee has claimed favouritism for the Tshwane Open. Punters must decide whether 12-1 represents value about the 2015 champion.

Coetzee's three European Tour victories have come in low-grade events like this one, close to home, and eighh place was a decent warm-up in Qatar last week. He should contend, but is prone to silly mistakes. Erik van Rooyen looked a potential Tshwane champion, but a five-over-par weekend in Qatar has dented confidence.

Palmer's top tip
Christiaan Bezuidenhout 80-1
Coetzee is the centre of attention and market leader, but a different Pretorian who has been chalked up at much bigger prices is a more appealing betting proposition. Christiaan Bezuidenhout can go close to a maiden European Tour title

Bezuidenhout was the best amateur in South Africa before making an immediate impact as a professional in just his fourth European Tour start. He performed superbly in the 2016 SA Open, finishing runner-up to Brandon Stone, showcasing his magnificent swing.


More advice from Steve Palmer

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Tshwane Open threeballs

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WGC-Mexico Championship threeballs and matchbets


Nine months later, Bezuidenhout won his first Sunshine Tour title, establishing himself as one of the best players on his home circuit. Attempts to earn promotion to the European Tour through victory in one of the co-sanctioned events were unsuccessful – there is so much pressure on the South Africans to take their opportunity in these tournaments – but the coveted career change came in November at the European Tour Qualifying School.

A courageous seven-under-par weekend at Q School meant Bezuidenhout sneaked a card by a shot, and the world is his oyster at the age of 23. Four rounds of par or better in Qatar last week, where he closed with an excellent 67, suggest this gentle giant has settled on the European Tour and can do plenty of damage on familiar terrain this week.

Bezuidenhout went to Waterkloof High School and Pretoria is his home city. Two previous Tshwane spins were underwhelming, but he starts this week with a European Tour card safely in his pocket, swinging with much more freedom. He has definitely got the game to score well at Pretoria Country Club.

Next best
Jacques Kruyswijk 60-1
There are plenty of tight holes at PCC and lots of penal rough, so aggressive powerhouses may not seem natural selections, but history has shown that big-hitters who choose the right times to attack can flourish at this venue.

Irons off the tee on the difficult holes before fully unloading driver on the easy ones has been a ticket to success for Coetzee, Charl Schwartzel and Dean Burmester in the previous three Tshwane Opens. All three are blessed with bundles of tee-shot punch.

Their success should encourage Jacques Kruyswijk, who takes a similar set of weapons to PCC. There are four sub-400-yards par-fours at PCC, which Burmester played in five under last year, and three par-fives, which Burmester covered in eight under. If Kruyswijk goes after those holes in the same fashion, he can threaten a European Tour breakthrough.

Like Bezuidenhout, Kruyswijk is competing without unbearable pressure this week, having already secured a European Tour card. Kruyswijk, also a resident of Pretoria, won the Second Qualifying Stage of Q School at the start of November, then finished second in the Final, closing with a tremendous 64.

Kruyswijk won on the Sunshine Tour at the end of 2016 and has proved he can contend in the co-sanctioned events, finishing fourth in the 2017 Joburg Open and fourth again in the SA Open last month. Two previous Tshwane efforts were disappointing, but this increasingly assured beast looks ready to make a major impact this time.

Other selection
Romain Langasque 55-1
A share of 13th place in the Cape Town Open last week was a source of encouragement for Romain Langasque, who is trying to get his career back on track after losing his European Tour card last season. The Frenchman also impressed with third place in the Mauritius Open in December, so is clearly getting his act together again after struggling for form, fitness and confidence from April to October last year.

Langasque, who won the 2015 Amateur Championship and was 39th as an amateur in the 2016 Masters, is still only 22 and has plenty of time to realise his great potential. His first start in Africa yielded second place in the 2016 Kenya Open on the Challenge Tour, quickly followed by fifth spot in Eygpt. In his first visits to South Africa at the start of last year, he finished 21st in the SA Open, 11th in Joburg and 18th in the Tshwane after a seven-under-par weekend.

Others to note
Marcus Kinhult
The super Swede further cemented his position on the European Tour with third spot in Qatar on Sunday. Bristling with potential, but inexperienced.

Oliver Bekker
The 33-year-old Pretorian won the 2013 Telkom PGA Pro-Am on the Sunshine Tour at a nearby venue, and was a three-time Sunshine Tour champ last season.

Scott Vincent
The Zimbabwean enjoyed a fine amateur career and has quickly started contending for titles as a pro. Finished third in the Indonesian Masters and fourth in the SA Open either side of Christmas.

Alexander Bjork
The accurate Swede finished fifth in this event last year and has made a solid start to this season, starting with a runner-up effort in Hong Kong.

Haydn Porteous
The two-time European Tour champ must be considered a dangerman on home turf, but has been struggling to string four good rounds together.

Vaughn Groenewald
The 150-1 chance has been in decent form on the Sunshine Tour and he won the 2006 Vodacom Origins event on this track by a six-shot margin. Could sneak a place.

Staking plan
C Bezuidenhout
1pt each-way 80-1 Sky Bet
J Kruyswijk
1pt each-way 60-1 Betfred
R Langasque
1pt each-way 55-1 bet365

The lowdown

Course Pretoria Country Club, Waterkloof, South Africa

Prize money €1.050m (€159,669 to the winner)

Length 7,081 yards Par 71 Field 156

Course records – 72 holes 264 Charl Schwartzel (2016) 18 holes 61 Jacques Blaauw (2015)

Course winners taking part Vaughn Groenewald, Hennie Otto (twice), Jean Hugo, George Coetzee

When to bet By 5am Thursday
Where to watch Live on Sky Sports from 8.30am Thursday
Time difference South Africa is two hours ahead of the UK and Ireland

Last week – Qatar Masters 1 E Pepperell (70-1), 2 O Fisher (175-1), 3 M Kinhult (60-1), T4 R Paratore (150-1), G Fernandez-Castano (125-1), P Larrazabal (50-1), G Havret (250-1)

Course overview This pretty parkland course was designed by Bob Grimsdell and opened in 1910. The Gary Player Group redesigned the layout in 2004 and 2005, making the original bunkers deeper and revetted, and adding 90 new ones.

Mature trees line the fairways and water hazards come into play on half the holes. Despite Player's toughening of the track, 14, 16 and 18 under par have been reached by the three Tshwane Open champions at Pretoria CC – George Coetzee, Charl Schwartzel and Dean Burmester.

Only three players in total finished double-figures under par in 2015 and 2016, and the par of the course was upped from 70 to 71 last year.

The Vodacom Origins Sunshine Tour event was played at this venue from 2005 to 2011, as well as the 2006 Tour Championship. The course opens with four par-fours, the 366-yard second the easiest and the 511-yard fourth the hardest.

There are only three par-fives, and one of them (the 12th) is 633 yards long. The 514-yard, par-five 18th is a great birdie chance, but there are 14 bunkers on the hole

Story of last year A pair of weekend 65s meant Dean Burmester raced away from the field, cruising to a three-shot success and a maiden European Tour title

Weather forecast Hot and sunny with light breezes for the most part, but a thunderstorm threat lurks for Thursday and Friday

Type of player suited to challenge This is a tight track, with decent rough, and accuracy appears the most important ingredient at first glance.

The three previous winners though – Coetzee, Schwartzel and Burmester – are powerful and aggressive, so there is clearly scope for all types of player to succeed at this layout and perfect scoring conditions are expected

Key attribute Accuracy


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This gentle giant has settled on the European Tour and can do plenty of damage on familiar terrain this week
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