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Monday, 19 November, 2018

Coetzee can regain the Tshwane title

George Coetzee's superb putting should stand him in good stead
1 of 1

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

Palmer's top tip
George Coetzee 12-1

South African quintet Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen, Branden Grace, Brandon Stone and Richard Sterne are all otherwise engaged at the WGC event in Mexico this week, leaving the door wide open for George Coetzee to get back to winning ways in the Tshwane Open.

Coetzee can leave his backers tearing their hair out – he often goes from the sublime to the ridiculous and course-management is his weakness – but raw talent and home advantage should be enough to see him over the line in front this week.

Coetzee is naturally powerful, putts superbly and can look a world-beater when in the groove. He has challenged numerous times for high-class European Tour Gulf Swing titles, contended for a long way in the 2011 Open, and was seventh in the 2015 USPGA. Victories, though, have come only close to home in low-key affairs like this one.

Coetzee made his European Tour breakthrough in the 2014 Joburg Open, then won the Tshwane Open the following year, the first time it was staged at Pretoria Country Club. PCC is his home track and he knows every blade of grass. That intimate course knowledge helped him to 14th place on his title defence 12 months ago.

Coetzee also won the 2015 Mauritius Open off the South African coastline to become a three-time European Tour champion, moving to 52nd in the world rankings. Injuries have hampered progress since then – he broke an ankle surfing in Bali – but he won the Dimension-Data Pro-Am on the Sunshine Tour in February last year and has shown flashes of brilliance from November onwards.

Fifth place in the Turkish Airlines Open was encouraging, seventh place in the Dubai Desert Classic was another step forward, and seventh again in Joburg last week was an excellent warm-up for the Tshwane. Nobody bettered Coetzee's score of 65 in soggy Joburg on Sunday and any double-figure prices about the Tshwane favourite look a bargain given how little he has to beat.

Next best
Christiaan Bezuidenhout 66-1

This is the last chance this year for South Africans without a European Tour card to secure one by winning a co-sanctioned event in their homeland, and Christiaan Bezuidenhout can go close to living his dream.

Bezuidenhout was three under par for 36 holes of the Joburg Open, missing the cut by a shot in the low-scoring shootout, but he finished fifth in the two Sunshine Tour events prior to that and is a classy youngster who is clearly good enough to win at this level.

Bezuidenhout, formerly South Africa's number one amateur, was runner-up in the SA Open last year and won his maiden Sunshine Tour title in October.

Other selections
Thomas Detry 55-1
Alexander Bjork 66-1
Vaughn Groenewald 300-1

Two promising Challenge Tour graduates can flourish at PCC – Thomas Detry and Alexander Bjork have settled quickly in the higher grade and are tidy operators who could take an immediate shine to the Tshwane venue.

Detry was third in the Alfred Dunhill Championship at the start of December, immediately showing a liking to South African conditions, and the tidy Belgian looks full of ability. His Challenge Tour victory (Bridgestone Challenge) was by the ridiculous margin of 12 shots.

Bjork is an accurate sort who won the Vaudreuil Challenge last summer. The Swede started his European Tour rookie campaign with two solid spins in South Africa – 17th in the Alfred Dunhill and seventh in the SA Open – and 13th spot in the Abu Dhabi Championship was a fantastic effort in stellar company.

Bjork's share of 68th in Joburg last week is easily forgiven – the saturated track piled pressure on this short hitter – and the dimensions of PCC are much more appealing for him.

Complete your staking plan with 300-1 outsider Vaughn Groenewald, who won his maiden Sunshine Tour title on this course in 2006 (Vodacom Origins) by a six-shot margin. Groenewald boasts two other top-fives at PCC, where his accuracy is rewarded.

Groenewald won a second Sunshine Tour title in 2006, then had to wait almost nine years for his next one. He credits his recent upturn in fortune to moving house to the Kingswood Golf Estate in George and the quality of his practice. The 42-year-old won two further ST titles in 2015, then another in August last year.

Rickie Fowler, decked in Puma clothing and using Cobra clubs, excelled in the Honda Classic on Sunday. Groenewald shares those sponsors but lacks Fowler's flair. PCC is a layout where an old grinder could prevail, though, and Groenewald looks a massive each-way price.

Others to note
Erik van Rooyen
The South African youngster made his Sunshine Tour breakthrough earlier this month and was tenth in his only previous Tshwane start. Dark horse.

Hennie Otto
The 40-year-old has twice won on the Sunshine Tour at Pretoria Country Club. Decent effort in Dimension-Data Pro-Am last time out gives him a squeak.

Thomas Aiken
Accurate three-time European Tour champion who is a class above most of the field. Already has three ET top-five finishes under his belt this season.

Trevor Fisher
PCC suits the Johannesburg man, who won the 2015 Africa Open by five shots. Tidy warm-up in Joburg Open last week.

Dean Burmester
The European Tour maiden let final-round pressure get to him in Joburg last Sunday, starting the round as favourite and ending it in 11th place. Quality player but bottle being questioned.

Darren Fichardt
The experienced campaigner kept his head to triumph in Joburg while Burmester and others were losing theirs. PCC suits and back-to-back success possibility should not be dismissed.

Staking plan
G Coetzee
3pts 11-1 Betfair, Betfred
C Bezuidenhout
1pt each-way 66-1 Betway
T Detry
1pt each-way 55-1 Betfred, Sky Bet
A Bjork
1pt each-way 66-1 general
V Groenewald
0.5pt each-way 300-1 BoyleSports, Sky Bet


Tshwane Open
Course Pretoria Country Club, Waterkloof, South Africa
Prize money €1.2m (€187,696 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, James Kingston, 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

Course overview This pretty parkland course was designed by Bob Grimsdell and opened in 1910. The Gary Player Group redesigned the layout over 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 under par and 16 under par has been reached by the two Tshwane Open champions at Pretoria CC – George Coetzee and Charl Schwartzel.

Only three players in total, though, have finished double-digits under par in those two events and the rough is particularly penal this 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 Charl Schwartzel opened with a disappointing 71, but obliterated the field over the final three rounds to win by eight shots

Weather forecast Calm and generally clear over the first two days, with only short, light showers, but the heavy South African rain which blighted last week's Joburg Open is expected over the weekend

Type of player suited to challenge This is a tight, tough course, and the rough is up, but soft turf and a wet forecast should make life easier for the competitors. Accurate driving and staying on the fairways is the key to success

Key attribute Accuracy


Aiken likely to maintain solid form

THOMAS AIKEN is more suited to this week’s Tshwane Open assignment than he was the three-round slugfest in Johannesburg last week, and the precise 33-year-old can be fancied to outscore Jaco van Zyl at Pretoria Country Club.

Aiken, fourth in the Alfred Dunhill Championship at the start of December, has followed up that bold effort with fifth place in the SA Open, 13th in Abu Dhabi and fourth in the Qatar Masters.

His attempts to crack the US Tour have ended and the South African is focused on tournaments like this that he actually has a chance of winning.

Aiken seems a likely Tshwane title contender, but it is difficult to say the same about Van Zyl, who has looked an increasingly desperate man in his last three tournaments.

Van Zyl blew another golden chance of a maiden European Tour victory in the Qatar Masters a month ago, choking in trademark fashion, and subsequent outings have been miserable.

Van Zyl missed the cut by ten shots in the Dubai Desert Classic, then shared 22nd place in a Sunshine Tour event, before plodding home 83rd of 91 weekend qualifiers in the Joburg Open on Sunday, using a ludicrous putter which had a face almost as small as his ball.

Improving youngster Romain Langasque, 11th in Joburg, continues to impress and looks a solid favourite in the top Frenchman market.

Recommendations
T Aiken to beat J van Zyl
3pts 10-11 bet365, Coral, Ladbrokes
R Langasque top Frenchman
2pts Evs Coral, Ladbrokes, Sky Bet

Raw talent and home advantage should be enough to see him over the line in front this week
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