Join the winning Fleet
David John previews the Tshwane Open and thinks Tommy Fleetwood has been underestimated by the bookmakers.
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Although officials can move tees around from day to day, if the little course guide on the European Tour site for this week's Tshwane Open is to be believed then I wonder why they have not stuck an extra 36 yards on to make the total length up to 8,000.
Yes, that is 8,000 yards. I know we are back at altitude again at the Copperleaf Golf & Country Estate in Centurion, just north of Johannesburg but that is verging on the obscene.
All four par fives are over 600 yards and England's Simon Dyson opined last year: "It is brutally long in places. You have to go up on the tee and drive it as far as you can."
- 1pt e.w. Julien Quesne at 70/1 (bet365 1/4 1,2,3,4,5) - class above much of this field and realistic chance with French golf flying
- 1pt e.w. Tommy Fleetwood at 50/1 (bet365 1/4 1,2,3,4,5) - fond memories of the area and should be ready to mount Ryder Cup push
- 1pt e.w. Hennie Otto at 33/1 (General 1/4 1,2,3,4,5) - gets the vote to lead the way for the home contingent
- 1pt e.w. Lucas Bjerregaard at 66/1 (spreadex 1/4 1,2,3,4,5) - in-form rookie should take to the course on his debut in the event
Dyson also pointed out that a pretty sharp short game is a handy asset as well, with the Ernie Els-designed layout featuring run-off areas around the greens to leave recovery shots requiring some thought if a player is to get up and down.
This is the eighth and final stop in South Africa on the schedule for 2014 and the locals have done the host nation proud with five wins from seven as Thomas Bjorn and Morten Orum Madsen have prevented the clean sweep.
It is the bigger and more established names that have come to the fore as well among those South African triumphs and that leads me once again to put a line through the vast majority of the Sunshine Tour rank and file, who basically don't look up to causing a surprise.
So to get things started, forgive me for jumping on the French bandwagon again but Julien Quesne will surely be inspired to show what he has got this week having watched his good friend Victor Dubuisson put up such a stellar effort in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
Quesne was the first on to the green to douse Dubuisson in champagne after the latter's win in Turkey towards the end of 2013 and it seems straightforward to argue that watching the latter in Arizona could be the catalyst to spur Quesne into life following a short break since finishing in the pack in Dubai.
We know Quesne has form in South Africa and although he missed the weekend here 12 months ago, he is certainly on an upward curve having made his last 13 cuts and thrown in second tour victory to boot.
Quesne is not among the longest hitters around but he did average over 290 yards off the tee last season to give him a fighting chance while he also ranked inside the top 30 when it came to scrambling.
So the length of the course may not suit him for the purists but if that is totally the case, why play here? He is playing because he knows he has more proven class than 80 per cent of this field and sees it as a legitimate winning opportunity.
I have no doubt that compatriots Romain Wattel and Gregory Bourdy will also be in a positive frame of mind after Dubuisson's exploits but Quesne's price of 70/1 - the 80/1 has unsurprisingly evaporated - in relation to that duo still seems rather an insult.
I am going to try to get inside the mind as well of Tommy Fleetwood and I feel he is a little overpriced in this company at 50/1.
The Lancastrian has been off the course since Dubai like Quesne but I am not at surprised to see him back in action here in a field that he will find eminently beatable if somewhere near his best.
There has to be a little question mark on that score but you can make a case that this part of the world is where Fleetwood produced his second best effort on the European Tour after his win at Gleneagles, as it was not too far away at Serengeti in 2012 where he salvaged his playing rights for the following season with a gutsy T6.
That should give him a mental boost as will Dubuisson in terms of Fleetwood's aspirations for the Ryder Cup. He played with Paul McGinley earlier in the season in Abu Dhabi and certainly looks to be a player who could be on the captain's radar bearing in mind that victory at September's venue.
Fleetwood will need a win or two along the way and what better way to give McGinley a little nudge than get on the scoreboard here hot on the heels of V-Dub flagging up own his chances of making the European line-up.
This is a bit of an acid test I feel for George Coetzee and will give us some idea if the floodgates are about to open for him after getting off the mark on the European Tour at the Joburg Open.
He had a couple of wins at the Match Play until being beaten by eventual winner Jason Day and to be fair, this is just about the same field give or take he faced two weeks ago when coming up trumps.
But the layers are taking no chances at 7/1 so good luck to him at that price if this is going to be the start of a stellar run of form.
Africa Open champ Thomas Aiken had an erratic week at the Dimension Data Pro Am on the Sunshine Tour and is also worth steering clear of at 14/1 while consistent but less-than-compelling duo Darren Fichardt and Jaco Van Zyl hardly excite at their respective odds.
Dawie Van Der Walt defends but I just can't see him winning three times in 12 months so that leaves Hennie Otto as the most viable option if it is going to be six out of eight wins for the home contingent.
Otto should really have done the business before Christmas in the South Africa Open at Glendower but frittered away a great position over the closing holes and left Madsen to pick up the silverware.
Basically, that is what you get with Otto and we have all become used to it. He is the closest thing there is to a golfing nutcase even after a concerted attempt in recent years to keep his emotions under control, but that still can't fully eclipse that he remains a very talented player.
He finished T10 here 12 months ago and has a similar result to build on from last week at Fancourt while I am encouraged by the fact that his Driving Distance average has increased to in excess of 293 yards so far in 2014.
With Coetzee, Aiken, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen all among the winners in South Africa this season, it is plausible that Otto could be the one to wrap things up and he looks stronger than a 33/1 poke.
I may be jumping on another bit of a bandwagon for the final pick this week but I have been impressed of late by Dane Lucas Bjerregaard.
The product of Florida State University may well have been inspired in the early part of this season by their college football programme's run all the way to the BCS Championship where they beat Auburn in early January.
That may purely be a coincidence - I bet it isn't - but he has shown some real promise on courses he will not have played competitively as this is his first full season on the European Tour.
His best effort so far was a top-10 at the Africa Open and I was particularly impressed with his ability to bounce back after a mistake when it would be easy to expect him to fold and disappear back amongst the also-rans.
A closing 66 saw him finish one shy of Stan Goya in the Dimension Data Pro Am and I feel at 66/1 it might well be worth going with him to produce again while he has the hot hand.
He currently sits in fifth place in the Driving Distance stats (an average of over 310 yards) so of all the courses he has played so far, this one should in all probability see him in an even better light.
- Since our preview was published, Julien Quesne has withdrawn from the event.