Five things to know as the European Tour returns to Randpark Golf Club for the 2020 Joburg Open
Return of the Joburg Open
The Joburg Open makes its return to the European Tour schedule this week, having last been contested during Shubhankar Sharma’s maiden victory in 2018.
The tournament, which was first staged in 2007, boasts an impressive list of former winners that includes 2011 Masters Tournament Champion Charl Schwartzel and fellow South African winners such as George Coetzee, Darren Fichardt, Branden Grace, Haydn Porteous, and Richard Sterne.
Start of the South African Swing
Played on the Firethorn Course at Randpark Golf Club, the Joburg Open marks the first international men’s golf tournament on South African fairways for nine months, and is co-sanctioned by the European Tour and Sunshine Tour.
Sharma happy to be back defending
Shubhankar Sharma earned his first European Tour victory following an impressive performance at the Joburg Open in December 2017, which was just his tenth start on Tour.
The then 21-year-old moved into contention with a second round 61, and sealed victory on the fifth day of the weather affected tournament with a final round 69.
“I’m really happy that I’m back,” said Sharma, who has waited nearly three years to defend his title.
“I have so many great memories from two years ago when I won and that’s where it all started for me, so I’m really looking forward to playing here again.”
A history of South African champions
Throughout the 12 previous editions of the Joburg Open, eight champions have hailed from South Africa in an impressive trend for the home stars.
Sterne became the first South African to win during the second edition of the tournament in 2008, before Schwartzel won in back-to-back years in 2010 and 2011, the latter three months before he went on to claim the Green Jacket.
Grace claimed the title next in 2012, and was followed by Coetzee in 2013, and Sterne’s second victory in 2014. Porteous became the seventh South African champion in 2016, with Fichardt taking that number to eight with a one stroke victory in 2017.
Inside the field
Of those former champions to hail from South Africa, three are in the field this week: Porteous, Fichardt, and Sterne.
Currently 21st in the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex is Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who arrives back in his home country following his debut at August National.
Wilco Nienaber, who has posted two top tens on the European Tour since the season restarted in July, and Garrick Higgo, who earned his maiden Tour title at the Open de Portugal in September will also be keen to impress on home soil.
Meanwhile, Brandon Stone will be aiming to win his first Joburg Open title and take confidence given that two of his three European Tour titles have been in his home country. He arrives at Randpark Golf Club having posted three top 20s in his last four starts.