After a fantastic South African Open for our country, the European Tour crosses the N3 highway and heads to one of my favourite courses in South Africa, Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club for the 10th Joburg Open. The tournament will feature major winners Ernie Els and Trevor Immelman as well as South African Open champion Brandon Stone. Previous winners George Coetzee and Richard Sterne will also be in the field so it is shaping up to be a fantastic tournament. As this is the tenth year, we pay tibute to the winners of the previous nine.
Ariel Canete (ARG) – 2007
In the inaugural year of the Joburg Open, a surprising winner emerged as Argentine Ariel Canete played a fantastic round of golf to triumph over Andrew McLardy by two strokes. It was the first time an Argentine had won in South Africa and was unfortunately as good as it got for Canete. He only got two T10 finishes after this and now sees himself ranked outside the top 1000 players in the world.
Richard Sterne – 2008 & 2013
In 2008 Richard Sterne gave the South African public what they badly desired by giving the locals a local winner. A phenomenal final round of 65 got Sterne into the playoff with countryman Garth Mulroy and Swede Magnus Carlsson, the only playoff in 9 years of Joburg Open. Sterne would go on to win the playoff and his third European Tour title. In 2013 Richard Sterne was at it again when he smashed the tournament record shooting a 260 and triumphing over Charl Schwartzel by 7 strokes. It made Richard Sterne only the second multiple winner of the Joburg Open and remains Richard’s most recent European Tour title.
Anders Hansen (DEN) – 2009
Scandinavian players have a good record on South African soil and Anders Hansen was another that added a title. Andrew McLardy was the unlucky loser again as he fell short by 1 shot. Hansen had closed 7 shots on McLardy in the final two rounds, shooting a 64 on Saturday and a solid 66 on Sunday. It is still Hansen’s only win outside of Europe but a massive highlight in his career.
Charl Schwartzel – 2010 & 2011
Charl Schwartzel in 2010 & 2011 was at his peak golfing power and the Joburg Open witnessed this first hand when he became the first ever back-to-back winner of the tournament. In 2010 it was by 6 strokes and in 2011 it was by four strokes as South Africa’s most recent Masters winner underlined why he is so popular in the country. The win in 2011 was followed up by that Masters win as Charl reached the peak of his powers. He is unfortunately missing from the 2016 field due to health issues, but everyone that was there will remember the dominant way that Charl led the field. His 61 on Friday in 2011 is the lowest 18 hole score in the nine-year history of the tournament.
Branden Grace -2012
Strongly rated as South Africa’s next major winner and very nearly was in 2015 as he pushed Jordan Spieth and Jason Day all the way at the US Open and the PGA Championship (Top five in both) and had the perfect Presidents Cup with a 5 out of 5. In 2012 Branden was still an emerging talent when he took on the Joburg Open. It catapulted an outstanding year as his victory in Joburg was followed up by three more European titles in the year. It all started with a one stroke victory at the Joburg Open in 2012.
George Coetzee – 2014
George Coetzee shot four sub 70 rounds en route to a tournament winning total of 268. It was a high-pressure win as George had previously finished in the top 3 on eight occasions on the European Tour. The win was George’s first on the European Tour, where he now has three including the Tshwane Open and the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open. It also meant that South Africans had won six Joburg Opens in a row and had identified another International force in the popular ginger.
Andy Sullivan (ENG) – 2015
But that run by the South Africans was halted by the portly Englishman. The Englishman had broken South African hearts by winning the SA Open via playoff against fan favourite South African, he did it again by reeling in rd 3 leader Wallie Coetsee by shooting a final round 66. Sullivan had never won on the European Tour before, but now had two titles in two months in South Africa. He later added the Portugal Masters to his titles last year and its disappointing that he is not in the field as he is in the 2016 EurAsia Cup taking place in Malaysia. Andy was the 7th different winner of the Joburg Open and the fourth maiden winner of the batch.
So who will be the top dog in the 2016 Joburg Open? Will Sterne make it three, will Grace make it two, will Stone get the SA Open – Joburg Open double or will it me a lesser known golfer. It all kick starts on Thursday this week at the Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club.
All images are from www.joburgopen.com