SA Open preview: Accuracy off the tee will be key at Blair Atholl
The defending champion is Thriston Lawrence, who'll want to make up for his poor finish at last week's Joburg Open.
Thriston Lawrence is the defending champion at the SA Open this week. Picture: EPA-EFE/Caroline Brehman
Two things will stand out about the man who wins this week’s SA Open to be played at Blair Atholl Estate from Thursday: He will be super fit and strong and he’ll have been the most accurate off the tee.
The course designed by Gary Player in Lanseria will again make history this week as being the longest on the DP World Tour at 7,528 metres (8,233 yards) — an increase of 66 metres from last year’s tournament — so it’s going to be a long walk for the players in the heat that has recently hit Gauteng, and other large parts of South Africa.
And secondly, the organisers have narrowed the fairways since last year’s tournament — won by Thriston Lawrence — to reward accuracy off the tee.
“Last year the rough wasn’t penal enough so we’ve grown the rough. If a long hitter is slightly off line, the second shot will definitely be more challenging this year,” said Director of Golf at Blair Atholl, Paul Marks.
The good putters though are in for a treat, according to Marks.
“The putting surfaces are incredible at the moment so anybody who putts well is going to do well this week. But, having said that, there will be some tight pin placements during the week.”
There are five par-5s on the course, with four of them over 550 metres long, contributing significantly to the length of the course, though it must be said the par-5s were statistically the easiest holes last year, with several golfers able to reach the greens in two shots.
Lawrence and Bradbury
Lawrence is back to defend the title he won last year and he’ll certainly be out to make up for his final round wobble at the Joburg Open at Houghton last Sunday.
But the man to keep an eye on is perhaps England’s Dan Bradbury, who roared into third place last weekend in defence of the title he won in 2022 at Houghton and having again qualified to play at the Open at Royal Troon next July is full of confidence.
The 24-year-old said he was excited about the week ahead.
“I’m very happy with the result of last week, but I probably didn’t play my best stuff, especially on the greens and around the greens,” he said.
“So hopefully we can keep the long game up and get the short game dialled in.
“Because the holes are such vast expanses, you have to be really specific with our targets.
“It’s not tree-lined. Your eyes don’t focus on a certain thing, so you’ve got to be really precise with where you’re aiming. I think it will be the putting that is key. The greens are so big that you are going to have long putts so pace control will need to be dialled in.”