East London calling for Hoey
Our David John brings you his best bets for this week's Africa Open on the European Tour, with Michael Hoey leading the way.
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Whilst preparing to write this preview for the Africa Open at East London Golf Club, I came across an interesting article which quoted the general manager at the course, Brenden Fourie.
He talked specifically about how the best defence of this relatively short, 6,832-yard course is the coastal winds - a bit like Durban Country Club - and that the switch in date for the event from January to February (this happened for the first time 12 months ago) means that the elements become much more of a factor.
"The north-easter or the south-wester can make it play like two different venues," said Fourie and with the breeze forecast to get up to a testing level over the weekend, I really want to side with someone who has some form with that in mind.
Like last week's Joburg Open, the tournament has been dominated by the home contingent with two wins for Louis Oosthuizen, one for Charl Schwartzel and one for defending champion Darren Fichardt.
The first point to raise is that both are winners in Madeira - a shortish track is used there, one which is exposed to the wind, so the two picks stand up to scrutiny in terms of that particular requirement.
Hoey is an interesting player who doesn't really seem to get the recognition he deserves. Maybe that is the way he likes to go about his profession but he has five wins on the European Tour since 2009 with only 2010 seeing him draw a blank.
He played all three legs of the Desert Swing in the Gulf with a best of T10 in Abu Dhabi and then sat out the Joburg Open - but it is no shock to see him back on the fairways at a venue that suits his game.
He has a best of T55 in the Africa Open since it became a co-sanctioned event with the Sunshine Tour, but he did post a T2 behind Retief Goosen back in 2009 and I get the feeling he was happy to sacrifice last week in a bid to freshen up considering he has already played seven events.
Hoey has also posted wins in Portugal and Morocco at courses by or near the sea while his biggest success came in the Alfred Dunhill Links in Scotland - he very much has the pedigree then and that necessary touch of class for an event like this.
Santos has a top-10 finish here last year and, to be fair, his form this time around is not quite as useful and would come under the steady rather than spectacular heading.
But a closing 68 in Johannesburg potentially sets him up nicely and the 2012 Rookie of the Year looks poised for a more positive display on a course that is going to be right up his street.
The South Africans prominent in the betting have few secrets so there is little scope in the prices of Thomas Aiken, Jaco van Zyl (almost a quarter the price he was last week in places) and the erratic Dawie van der Walt.
So I am going to take a punt at mammoth odds on Lyle Rowe, who plays his golf just down the Eastern Cape at Port Elizabeth and should be really familiar with the conditions he will encounter.
He is one of the many golfers in South Africa who seems able to eke out a living on his home tour without causing too many ripples but he is not without hope of causing a bit of a surprise virtually in his back garden.
He missed the cut in Joburg but exited with some of his guns blazing thanks to a second round 66. He finished T22 in this event 12 months ago and also has a top 10 in 2012 so that makes the 26-year-old well worth a shot at a big price.
I have tipped up Robert Rock and Shiv Kapur lately and would not be surprised to see either feature to some extent, and although this is lesser company than in Dubai, you are talking about hugely deflated odds so that is enough to put me off going back in with them.