The European Tour remains in South Africa this week for the Africa Open at the East London Golf Club. Thomas Aiken won in 2014 and a good field has assembled in 2015.

The European Tour remains in South Africa this week for the Africa Open at the East London Golf Club. Thomas Aiken won in 2014 and a good field has assembled in 2015.

With a number of the European Tour’s best over in the US for the WGC – Cadillac Championship, this event provides a chance for some of the circuit’s up-and-coming talents to show their worth.

This will be only the sixth time the Africa Open has appeared on the European Tour schedule. The tournament began life as a Sunshine Tour event in 2008 and was initially hosted by the Fish River Sun Country Club near Port Alfred. Shaun Norris took the inaugural title. In 2009 the competition moved to East London GC and carried a dramatically increased prize fund. As a result it attracted a far stronger field that led to the Africa Open being co-sanctioned by the European Tour in 2010.

Home players have dominated since this event became a fixture on the European Tour: Charl Schwartzel was champion in 2010 then Louis Oosthuizen took back-to-back victories in 2011 and 2012. Darren Fichardt claimed the title in 2013, and last season it was Thomas Aiken who came out on top after a playoff against England’s Oliver Fisher.

Designed by Colonel SV Hotchkin, the course at East London dates from 1893. It’s a historic and traditional layout winding through sand hills and coastal bush land. The course blends both links and parkland playing characteristics. It’s an excellent test of skill and one that generally discovers a quality winner.

The weather in general looks like being fair, although there’s a threat of thunderstorms on Thursday that could interrupt play.

Venue: East London Golf Club, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Date: Mar 5-8
Course stats: par 71, 6,616 yards
Purse: €1,100,000 Winner: €166,058
Defending Champion: Thomas Aiken (-20)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 5 – Sky Sports 4 from 8.30am
Friday 6 – Sky Sports 4 from 8.30am
Saturday 7 – Sky Sports 4 from 10.30am
Sunday 8 – Sky Sports 4 from 10am

Player Watch:
David Howell – Tied second in the Joburg Open, Howell will look to build on that result this week. This is a course that should suit his game.

Oliver Fisher – Returns to the site of a playoff defeat last season. By reaching 20-under-par round this track, he’s proved it’s a course he can master.

Raphael Jacquelin – The Frenchman hasn’t played on the European Tour since the Malaysian Open. He’s been on solid form but hasn’t taken a victory on the circuit for a couple of years. This technical layout could be the setting for a return to the winners’ circle.

Key hole: 16th. At just 318 yards this short par 4 is reachable with a tailwind. But the hole demands an extremely accurate tee shot with heavy bunkering protecting the front of the green. With the wind against, it’s a totally different prospect and becomes a tough strategic test.

Skills required: Versatility. With differing playing characteristics on the front and back nines, players will have to use all their skills to negotiate the track successfully. Accuracy is the requirement on the front side while the wider spaces of the back nine allow the players to open their shoulders a little more. If the wind gets up it will play a part.