A third home candidate to make the staking plan is JAMES KINGSTON. Its never the easiest decision to part with cash on Kingston, because he has such a terrible record when in contention. As long as we overlook a surprising missed cut last time, his recent form in better company brings him into consideration. He’s generally very accurate, which is essential round this course in order to set up the numerous birdie opportunities available. And at least, given those temperament concerns, Kingston appears to have improved in that department with two titles in the last 13 months.
While I’m sure there will be other journeymen South Africans in the top-10 at Kensington, they’re
not that easy to identify, let alone justify a bet. Mark Murless has made the frame two years running so he rated a second glance at 66/1, as did Keith Horne. These guys are never going to light the world up though. Louis Oosthuisen is a decent home prospect, but impossible to recommend on either of his previous course efforts, or recent form for that matter. Troy Aiken has terrible course form, and is under-priced on the basis of some decent results before Christmas.
Europeans Anders Hansen and Raphael Jacquelin certainly have enough class to contend in this lesser company. However, Hansen hasn’t played for six weeks, Jacquelin since October, making it hard to escape the conclusion that they’re both using this as a warm-up for bigger prizes in the weeks ahead.
In stark contrast, an event of this lowly stature represents an ideal opportunity for those desperate to make an early impact in their European Tour careers. Chris Wood, placed as an amateur in last year’s Open and a steady improver since, will have his supporters after going close again last time. A repeat of the long game stats shown at Pearl Valley would ensure he goes very close, but at
28/1 bookies aren’t giving anything away.
A couple of equally good prospects make more appeal. Regular European Tour watchers will have seen RAFAEL CABRERA-BELLO feature on a few leaderboards on rare outings at the higher level, and he carries a decent reputation over from his amateur days and the Challenge Tour. He strikes me as a similar type to his compatriot Larrazabal, in that he’s likely to feature when birdie-chasing is the order of the day. The 24 year-old Spaniard has driven the ball long and straight on recent starts, the ideal combination for Kensington.
Finally, this week will be the first time of many that I back DANNY WILLETT, the latest off the seemingly never-ending conveyer belt of young British golfing talent. The 21 year-old from Sheffield was ranked as the No.1 amateur in the world as a teenager, and made an immediate impact on the European Tour from limited appearances last year, registering four top-20 finishes out of 10 starts. He’s since eased through Q-School, suggesting he’s already capable of getting competitive in the weaker events. Its interesting to note that while he finished ahead of Chris Wood over six rounds at Q-School, Willett is three times the price now.
Next page: Joburg Open: Other ones to watch