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Investec Royal Swazi Open: What’s what 1

30th April 2019 | Sunshine Tour

Investec Royal Swazi Open: What’s what

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The third stop of the new Sunshine Tour season is the Investec Royal Swazi Open which takes place from Wednesday May 1 to Saturday May 4 at Royal Swazi Spa Country Club.

The tournament carries a prize fund of R1.5-million plus R200,000 (R50,000 in daily incentives) for men and R180,000 (R10,000 daily incentives) for women.

It was first played in 1971 and has had some great names in golf play it, as well as some of the most colourful: John O’Leary, Dale Hayes and John Daly are amongst them.

In an effort to keep the event as interesting as possible, for the first time in 2003, the Investec Royal Swazi Open was played in a Modified Stableford format.

The format:

Unlike traditional scoring methods, where the aim is to have the lowest score, the objective in a Modified Stableford tournament is to have the highest score. Known to encourage and sometimes reward aggressive play, the Modified Stableford format awards points based on the number of strokes taken at each hole and thereby making it possible for players to play attacking golf.

Scoring at the Investec Royal Swazi Open looks like this:

  • Albatross: 8 points
  • Eagle: 5 points
  • Birdie: 2 points
  • Par: 0 points
  • Bogey: -1 point
  • Double bogey or more: -3 points

Ten previous winners are in the field this week. They are Titch Moore (2016), PH McIntyre (2015), Daniel van Tonder (2014), James Kingston (2013), Christiaan Basson (2012), Keith Horne (2010), Jean Hugo (2008), Nic Henning (2004), Andrew McLardy (2002) and Bradford Vaughan (2001).

The field:

72 men professionals, six women professionals, and 108 amateurs.

Defending champion:

Justin Harding. He is not coming to defend the title.

The course:

The course takes its shape from the Lugogo Mountain Range and is a 6,872-metre parklands layout. The first nine holes are comparatively level, while the homeward nine fully exploits the mountainous terrain. All the greens have been planted with Durban Country Club grass, which provides a thinner and therefore a faster putting surface. The fairways are planted with hardy kikuyu, which stands up well to constant use and remains relatively green throughout the year.

Some of its most obvious challenging features include lakes, gullies thick with vegetation, out-of-bounds areas running close to fairways, wickedly-placed bunkers (one of which is so steep that railway sleeper steps have been provided to facilitate access), swirling breezes and clusters of towering trees and indigenous plants.

Form player:

It is hard to ignore JC Ritchie’s form which goes all the way back to last season where he only missed the cut once. He has registered three wins in the last eight months, one of which came at this season’s Zanaco Masters. Ritchie will want to be the first player to make it a double early on in the season when he tees up this week. His experience on the course will also play in his favour. He shared 30th in last season’s event and he then came back to claim 19th at the Royal Swazi Spa Challenge about three months later. Ritchie, who has won two of his four Sunshine Tour titles outside South Africa, will want to register his first win in eSwatini.

Sentimental pick:

Chris Cannon of England suffered a string of missed cuts last season, but he then turned things around with some good finishes starting from 22nd at the Limpopo Championship in March, followed by a share of 37th at the season-opening event at the Mopani Redpath Zambia Open and the share of third at the Zanaco Masters in Lusaka. Together with his runner-up finish alongside Fredrik From at the Vodacom Origins of Golf Parys in October, it shows that Cannon can register his maiden Sunshine Tour win any time soon.

The bolter:

Colin Nel failed to make a cut in his last eight starts since November, but his regular good showings at Royal Swazi Spa Country Club show that he enjoys playing at the course – and in this event. His second win on the Sunshine Tour might come on that course. Nel finished fourth at last year’s tournament and he came back on the same course to claim another fourth spot at the Lombard Insurance Classic a week later. Those two finishes put the cherry on top of three straight top-10 for Nel, and he could turn his fortunes around in eSwatini where he is clearly comfortable.

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