The European Tour returns to South Africa this week for the Joburg Open. Haydn Porteous is defending champion and three places in The Open Championship are up for grabs.

The Joburg Open will, once again, act as a gateway into The Open Championship. The top-three finishers within the top-10 at the Joburg Open (not already exempt) will gain a place in the field for Royal Birkdale. Last year Haydn Porteous, Zander Lombard and Anthony Wall claimed spots at Royal Troon.

This event has been a fixture on the European Tour since 2007 and it’s been dominated by South African players since then. Of the 10 editions of the tournament, seven have been won by home golfers. Charl Schwartzel and Richard Sterne have each claimed the title on two occasions.

Last year, Haydn Porteous came out on top. He beat his fellow South African Zander Lombard into second place. The home nation will be strongly represented once again this year. Richard Sterne, George Coetzee and Jaco Van Zyl will be amongst the favourites.

This tournament is played over two courses: The East and West layouts at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club. As such, there’s capacity for a larger, 210-man field. All those on the start sheet will play one round on each course over the first two days before the longer East Course hosts the final two days of action.
The event is co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and it provides players from that circuit with a great opportunity to earn playing rights on the European Tour.

The weather forecast for the week looks decidedly sketchy with the thunderstorms a distinct possibility. Disruptions to play could well be a factor in the outcome of this tournament.

Venue: Royal Johannesburg & Kensington GC, Johannesburg, South Africa
Date: Feb 23-26
Course stats: East Course – par 72 7,656 yards; West course – par 71, 7,203 yards
Purse: €1,200,000
Defending Champion: Haydn Porteous (-18)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 23 – Sky Sports 4 from 8.30am
Friday 24 – Sky Sports 4 from 8.30am
Saturday 25 – Sky Sports 4 from 10am
Sunday 26 – Sky Sports 4 from 10am

Player watch:

George Coetzee – A former winner of this tournament, Coetzee will look to impress this week. He was tied seventh in the Dubai Desert Classic earlier this month.

George Coetzee swing sequence:

Jaco Van Zyl – He was tied second in the recent Qatar Masters and he has a good record in this event. He was second in 2015 and third in 2012.

Richard Sterne – He’s twice been a winner of this event and he holds the tournament scoring record. He hasn’t played on the European Tour yet this year, but his last start was a second place in the Alfred Dunhill Championship last December.

Key hole: 11th (East Course.) It’s a 500-yard par four and the length alone makes it a challenge. But it also requires a straight tee shot then a precise approach over water. It’s a great spectator hole and one where large scores can be racked up.