The European Tour returns for 2018 and heads down to South Africa for the South African Open at the Glendower Golf Club in Johannesburg.
Rory McIlroy played in the tournament last year in what was a great coup for the organisers and although he was beat in a play-off it certainly got the Tour off to a great start.
There is no McIlroy this year, but Branden Grace and Charl Schwartzel ensure a strong field and it is no surprise that the South African duo are both a single figure price – 6/1 and 13/2 respectively. Grace ended the year on a high with victory at the Nedbank Challenge and looks the best bet of the two. However, I am happy to leave both alone in their first start of the year.
Another two locals are next in the betting with Dylan Frittelli and Dean Burmester available to be backed at 16/1 and 20/1. Frittelli was also a winner late in 2017 and will be confident of a big season – especially when playing on African soil.
Ryder Cup stars Chris Wood and Andy Sullivan will be disappointed they are playing here instead of at the EurAsia Cup but it gives them a chance to show Thomas Bjorn what he is missing. Wood is 33/1, whilst Sullivan is 40/1.
As this is the first tournament of 2018 it makes sense to try some players at a bigger price and my first pick is Thomas Detry at 50/1. The big hitting Belgian had a decent season last year and will want to build on that again. Three top ten finishes was a good return and he has the game to win on the tour.
Next, I am going for Matthew Southgate at 80/1. He ended the season is great form although did suffer a slight injury at the end of the year. He says he is fully recovered and I expect a big year from the Englishman.
Finally, I am going for Ashley Chesters at 150/1. It was a good first season on the European Tour for Chesters and there is no doubt he will be inspired by his Walker Cup colleague, Paul Dunne, picking up victories last year. I expect Chesters to eventually win on the Tour and hopefully he can go well at a big price.