Africa betting guide
Dave Tindall's in-depth preview and best bets for this week's European Tour event - the Africa Open.
By Dave Tindall
Last Updated: 12/02/13 9:19pm
The European Tour stays in Africa for a second weeking running but this has a low-key feel with the big guns either engaged elsewhere or preparing for action in America.
Last week's winner, Richard Sterne, had been due to play but he's now withdrawn and that leaves Thomas Aiken as the favourite.
There are a fair smattering of Europeans in the field and they might fancy their chances given that the last three runnings of this event have been won by the absent Louis Oosthuizen (2012 and 2011) and Charl Schwartzel (2010).
The tournament has held official European Tour status since 2010 while the year before it was won by two-time major champion Retief Goosen, suggesting the cream rises to the top in this event.
As usual, Sky Sports will have live coverage of all four days.
East London is extremely short by modern standards, measuring in at just 6,740 yards. It has the standard four par fives but a single par three on the front nine means it plays to a par of 73. The course meanders through coastal dunes and dense, indigenous bush and has some striking views overlooking the Indian Ocean. The course, which has hosted six South African Opens and a number of Amateur Championships, is very undulating and fierce winds can whistle through the valleys. However, the winds are really its only defence and last year in calm conditions Louis Oosthuizen won with 27-under. Richard Sterne holds the course record of 61 (2009) while, that same year, Angel Cabrera came home in 29.
Temperatures range from 71 degrees on Friday to a peak of 80 on Sunday. Friday also shows a 60% chance of rain while there's a 20% chance on Thursday and Saturday. As for the winds, the forecast suggests it could get up to 23mph on the final day. It's due to be at its calmest (12mph) on Friday.
Last year - Louis Oosthuizen
Louis Oosthuizen, the winner in 2011, defended his title after taking control of the tournament with a stunning second round 11-under 62. That gave him a two-shot lead over fellow South Africans Jaco Ahlers, Thomas Aiken, Retief Goosen and Tjaart Van der Walt and a pair of 67s on the weekend saw the 2010 Open champ capture his fourth European Tour title.
The leading contenders (and Sky Bet odds)
Thomas Aiken (9/1): A fast finish gave Aiken a share of sixth place in Joburg last week and three of those in front of him - Sterne, Schwartzel and Coetzee - aren't in opposition this time. For the second week running, Aiken hit over 80% of his greens in regulation so he really is striking the ball extremely well at the moment. As for his record at East London, he was runner-up in 2010 and tied 14th in each of the last two years so it's a course where he can play well. He hasn't won in his native South Africa since 2008 (he's had 10 top fives between then and now) so he's due. But does 9/1 about the world number 120 really excite you?
2013 form: 6-22-MC
Course form: 14-14-2-52
South Africa form: 6-55-MC-3
World ranking: 120
Jaco van Zyl (14/1): Van Zyl was also prominent last week but a closing 70 saw him slip to 11th. On the stats, he was second in Driving Accuracy and 10th in Putting Average in Joburg so that bodes well for this short track. It's no surprise therefore that he's played here in the past. Last year he closed 65-67-66 to finish fourth and he occupied the same position in 2011 after an opening 67 and three 70s. He boasts five wins on South African soil over the last three years so deserves his place as second favourite.
2013 form: 11-71-Wd
Course form: 4-4-28-15
South Africa form: 11-47-8-2
World ranking: 148
Joost Luiten (16/1): The Dutchman has played in this event once before, finishing 28th back in 2010. This is just his third appearance of the season although his first produced a sixth place in Abu Dhabi before he missed the cut in Qatar. Of that performance, he said: "Unfortunately not My week! Played alright but Just didn't score the last 2 days!!" The worry this week is that he didn't start in Joburg due to an irritated tendon in his shoulder. Presumably if he starts it's good enough to play but it must be a concern for potential backers.
2013 form: MC-6
Course form: 28
South Africa form: 26-6-28-56
World ranking: 106
Garth Mulroy (16/1): After a third place in the Alfred Dunhill Championship before Christmas, Mulroy has started 2013 pretty well. He made all three cuts on the Middle East Swing, with a best of 15th in Dubai and then last week he was ninth in Joburg. Mulroy closed with a 65 in round three and played the first nine holes of round four in six-under so had he made the back-nine birdies all his rivals did he would have finished runner-up. The negative is that he doesn't have any top course form. Last year he was tied 34th and, in his only other start in 2009, he was tied 28th.
2013 form: 9-15-40-48
Course form: 34-28
South Africa form: 9-3-21-50
World ranking: 141
Ricardo Santos (16/1): The top five in the betting are some way clear of the rest (it's 28/1 to the next player listed) and it shows how well Santos has played that he's forced his way into that quintet. The Portuguese was fourth in Abu Dhabi, 22nd in Qatar, seventh in Dubai and third in Joburg last week after a final round 64 featuring three closing birdies. His stroke average this year is 69.30 - over two shots better than 2012 - so, quite simply, he's one of the hottest players in the field. Has experience of the course although his only visit in 2012 resulted in a missed cut.
2013 form: 3-7-22-4
Course form: MC
South Africa form: 3-28-MC-MC
World ranking: 139
Best of the rest
Keith Horne (33/1): The 41-year-old South African is a five-time winner on the Sunshine Tour, the most recent victory coming at last year's Telkom PGA Championship. He finished seventh in the pre-Christmas Alfred Dunhill Championship and sixth in Joburg last week so in this weaker field he must enter calculations. He's played in six events here and finished 21st or better in four of them.
Gregory Bourdy (50/1): On very latest form, the Frenchman isn't a standout although he did make two cuts out of three in the Middle East. However, looking at it another way, he's a three-time European Tour winner who also has a strong record in South Africa. He won on the Sunshine Tour in 2006, has been in the top 15 in three of his last five starts there and that includes a third in the Alfred Dunhill Championship just under two months ago.
Jaco Ahlers (150/1): The 26-year-old from Pretoria was second at halfway here last year before going on to finish tied 14th. He told us in interview this week: "I get a good feeling on that course. I have some good things going with my game right now. I am very close to playing really well so really looking forward to the next few weeks." In his last three starts he's finished 14th in the Nelson Mandela Championship and 38th in Joburg last week. But for a first round 72 on the easier West Course he would have been top 20 again.
I do like Thomas Aiken here but the 9/1 isn't giving anything away for a player who doesn't win much.
However, 16/1 takes us into decent each-way territory and the one who stands out at that price is the hugely in-form Ricardo Santos.
The European Tour's 2012 Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year has made a superb start to the campaign and, having won with 22-under on a short, twisting track in Madeira last year he should like this similar test.
At just over double those odds, Keith Horne seems in just as good nick as those much shorter than him in the betting and, given his decent record at the track, the 33/1 is worth an each-way punt.
The 50s about Gregory Bourdy is also worth an each-way play given his ability to win and strong record in South Africa.
Finally, he may actually do better than this, but backing Jaco Ahlers at 11/2 to make the top 20 seems more than fair.
The South African was joint second at halfway last year before finishing 14th and told us this week that he really likes the course and feels good about his game.
2pts e.w. Ricardo Santos at 16/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Keith Horne at 33/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Gregory Bourdy at 50/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
2pts Jaco Ahlers to finish in the top 20 at 11/2