The 2013 European Tour season gets underway this week as Royal Durban Golf Club hosts the inaugural Nelson Mandela Championship presented by ISPS Handa.
The tournament is one of 45 scheduled by the European Tour this season, and the first of six due to be staged in South Africa – more than any other nation.
With a host of big names competing in the Emirates Australian Open and the Thailand Golf Championship, this week will provide a good opportunity for recent Q-School and Challenge Tour graduates to start their seasons with aplomb.
The event is also co-sanctioned with the Sunshine Tour, so a lot of South Africans will be looking to make an impression on home soil.
The par-70 Royal Durban is a relatively short 6774-yard course, but it will be playing longer after two months of intense rainfall.
As such, the rough will be thick and heavy, and there will be a premium on keeping the golf ball in play.
Home favourites Branden Grace and George Coetzee are both 8/1 with Ladbrokes, and whilst the latter is due his first European Tour win, I’d be tempted to look elsewhere.
Jaco Van Zyl, at 20/1 with Ladbrokes, is a good option this week. The South African has been playing some good golf of late, including a top ten at the Barclays Singapore Open, and has a good record on home turf. He hits a solid amount of fairways and greens, and was 27th in Stroke Average on the European Tour in 2012. Last season, Van Zyl finished fourth at the Africa Open, 27th at the South African Open Championship and 20th at the SA Open Championship.
Marc Warren, at 33/1 with Ladbrokes, will be a popular bet this week. The Scot was tied for the lead after two rounds of the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, his last event. He started the 2012 season with a third-place finish at the Joburg Open, and came 17th at November’s SA Open Championship. Last season, he ranked seventh on the European Tour in Putts Per Round.
Espen Kofstad is worth a look at 50/1 with Ladbrokes. The Norwegian won the 2012 Challenge Tour Money List, thanks, in part, to victory at the season-ending Apulia San Domenico Grand Final. Kofstad will be determined to make a strong start to his European Tour career, and will also have some positive memories of South Africa. At November’s SA Open Championship, he was inside the top three midway through his second round.
Soren Kjeldsen, at 66/1 with Ladbrokes, will be looking to start the 2013 season with a bang after recording no top-ten finishes in his last five months. A tie for 26th at the DP World Tour Championship suggests he is in decent form, and his style of play should be well suited to this golf course.
Merrick Bremner, at 125/1 with Ladbrokes, is a good each way bet this week. The South African is 20th on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, and has recorded three top-five finishes in his last six Sunshine Tour starts. At the SA Open Championship he led after round one, and was in a position to challenge for the title until a poor final day put paid to his chances.
Nelson Mandela Championship advised bets:
2pts each way on Jaco Van Zyl at 20/1 with Ladbrokes
2pts each way on Marc Warren at 33/1 with Ladbrokes
2pts each way on Espen Kofstad at 50/1 with Ladbrokes
2pts each way on Soren Kjeldsen at 66/1 with Ladbrokes
2pts each way on Merrick Bremner at 125/1 with Ladbrokes