Though the tournament is entering its third year, this is the first ever Africa Open golf betting guide as previously it was only part of the Sunshine Tour schedule. Now promoted to the Race to Dubai and with Ryder Cup points up for grabs, one might have expected at least a few leading Europeans to turn up. It hasn’t worked out that way, however, with only seven of the world’s top 150 in attendance. There is nobody to match the class of Retief Goosen and Masters champion Angel Cabrera, who finished first and ninth respectively last year, but are eligible for this week’s vastly more lucrative PGA Tour curtain-raiser.
What remains is effectively an above average Sunshine Tour event, where anyone with recent form warrants consideration. As well as last year’s birdie-fest, the course, East London GC, also hosted a co-sanctioned event back in 2001, producing a predictable leaderboard on both occasions. At less than 7,000 yards it is unlikely to offer any particular advantage to long-hitters, but the four par 5s will doubtless prove pivotal to scoring.
It’s impossible to argue with the claims of Charl Schwartzel and Richard Sterne to dispute favouritism, but whether that means they represent betting value is another matter. Both have far superior overseas form to any of their compatriots, and both are nearly always in contention when playing at home. Sterne has won four times and finished runner-up twice in his last 13 South African starts, while Schwartzel has made the top five in five of his last nine. Nevertheless, at 9/1 and 11/1 respectively, a win only bet would be the only realistic option and on that score I can afford to leave them alone. After all, neither came particularly close to winning here last year.
Of more interest, and available at a price that can be sensibly taken each-way is DARREN CLARKE. Merely the fact Darren has made this journey so early in the year may be significant. Darren knows he is still capable of making an impact at the highest level, and urgently needs world ranking and Ryder Cup points to restore some lost status. He has often thrived during the close season before, especially in Africa where six previous events have yielded four top fours, including when runner-up here last year. His form before Christmas was promising too, with top 15s in Spain and Hong Kong.
shared more than just a name with Clarke last year when also finishing runner-up behind Goosen, and must come into this argument. Fichardt’s last eight South African starts have yielded two wins and five top-six finishes, suggesting that while his peak achievements in Europe happened quite a while ago, he retains a highly competitive presence in his homeland. Darren is very narrowly preferred at around the same odds to James Kingston, who will probably make the frame but yet again badly failed to convince in contention last time out at Pearl Valley.