The European Tour brings its South African sojourn to an end this week with the richest of the country's four co-sanctioned events, the €1.3 million Joburg Open.
Following hugely successful tournaments in Malelane and Durban before Christmas, followed by last week’s event in East London, the city of Johannesburg takes centre stage this week and the beautiful Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.
Celebrating its fifth anniversary, the Joburg Open sees Charl Schwartzel return as defending champion looking to win for the fifth time in his homeland.
The 26 year old produced a peerless performance at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club 12 months ago as he conjured a brilliant final round 66 to sprint clear of the chasing pack and eventually stroll to a six shot victory over Darren Clarke and Keith Horne.
“My performance at the Joburg Open was probably the best golf I have ever played,” said Schwartzel. “You don’t go round courses like the two at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club and only make three bogeys in the week without playing well.”
Schwartzel has a magnificent record in European Tour events co-sanctioned with his native Sunshine Tour having played in 25 tournaments, made 22 cuts and won three times at the 2005 Alfred Dunhill Championship before his back-to-back victories at the 2010 Africa and Joburg Opens.
He has also finished runner-up five times and been placed in the top ten on 13 occasions overall in co-sanctioned tournaments, including a share of fourth place at last week’s Africa Open.
Should Schwartzel triumph again, he would join Ernie Els (2002-03-04 Heineken Classic) and Trevor Immelman (2003-04 South African Open Championship), as South African players to make a successful defence of a European Tour title.
Both Northern Ireland’s Clarke and South African Horne will be back in town looking to put the brakes on Schwartzel’s fantastic home form, and they will be joined in an intriguing field of 210 players by former champion Richard Sterne (2008).
Those 210 players (206 professionals and four amateurs) will contest the first 36 holes over the East and West Courses before the halfway cut of the top 65 players (and ties) head into weekend battle for the lion’s share of the €1.3 million prize fund.