The European Tour has rolled into Dubai for this week’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic and as always, there’s a star-studded cast to it. Included in the 44 threeballs that make up the field of 132 players are 13 South Africans.
Now, before we scoff at the chances of the South Africans – three-time champion and one of the world’s favourite sons, Ernie Els for instance, would appear to among those who have no chance of actually winning the event – a quick reminder why there’s good betting value to be had.
Throw off the patriotic cloak by all means, because when one bets it should be with the head and not the heart, but if you scroll down the history of this famous desert tournament you will see that South Africans have a rich record in the event.
There is The Big Easy himself, a legend who won in 1994, 2004 and 2005. Then there is the late Wayne Westner, who won in 1993. There’s also a raft of South Africans who have finished second in the event, Els (three times), Retief Goosen and more recently, James Kingston (2011), Richard Sterne (2013) and Christian Bezuidenhout (2020).
Although the star line-up this year includes the likes of last week’s winner Tyrrell Hatton, Major champions Collin Morikawa, Shane Lowry, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Danny Willett and Padraig Harrington and prolific winners in Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood, you can expect a South African to feature in the top 10 this week.
Why? Just a hunch and history. Golf is one of those sports where it’s tough to find a winner before the event, although the current favourite is Hatton (15-2), but he won’t feature in my selections fot his event.
Leave out the highest-ranked golfer in the field, the favourite and last week’s winner might make you think I’m bonkers, but very few golfers go back to back on the European Tour. I’m prepared to say that however well Hatton plays, others will play better than him.
I’m going to look for each-way value in the South Africans. There are 13 of them: Bezuidenhout (22-1), Dean Burmester, George Coetzee, Wilco Nienaber (100-1), Justin Harding, Garrick Higgo, Sterne, Brandon Stone (200-1), Jayden Schaper, Els (400-1), Zander Lombard, Justin Walters (500-1) and Haydn Porteous (1000-1).
There were four South African winners on the European Tour last season – Branden Grace, Coetzee, Higgo and Bezuidenhout – and both Coetzee and Bezuidenhout were in fair form in Abu Dhabi last week, finishing 11th and 12th, respectively.
I’m going to suggest a wager on both finishing in the places, on the first page of the leaderboard this week. Coetzee is value at 100-1, as is Burmester. The Saffas seem to like it in Dubai’s desert.