While the good and the great fight it out for victory at Sawgrass, we have rather lower-key fayre to peruse on the European Tour.
The AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open made its debut last year but in 2016 moves to a new venue. Fear not, though, as we do actually have a little course form that’s relevant.
The Four Seasons Golf Club at Anahita is the location this time and the Ernie Els design has previously staged the AfrAsia Golf Masters, a tournament featuring 20 players from the French pro circuit and 10 guests from the European Tour (English and French are generally accepted as the official languages of Mauritius).
That tournament is played in December so the 2015 form is fairly recent.
2015 AfrAsia Masters
-9 Max Orrin, Francois Calmels
-5 Hennie Otto
2014 AfrAsia Masters
-6 Max Orrin
-4 Hennie Otto
Surprised that little-known Max Orrin has won both times? Perhaps we shouldn’t be as he’s one of the brand ambassadors along with South African Hennie Otto. Both know the course well and it’s reflected in the above results. Nicolas Colsaerts also represents them too. The obvious next question…. are those three playing and available for the European Tour fantasy game this week? The answer is yes.
The European Tour website says: “The course is set against lush mountains and fringed by crystal-clear lagoons. Six stunning ocean-side holes culminate in a final shot that is amongst the most spectacular in the world.” Others who have played it talk of plenty of width off the tee and large greens. It measures in at 7,401 yards and is a standard par 72 with four par 5s, four par 3s and 10 par 4s. By the way, if you’re wondering where exactly Mauritius is, look at a world map, find Africa and move your eyes to the right. It’s just to the east of Madagascar and is three hours ahead of the UK.
For the record, here’s the top 10 from last year’s event which was played at Heritage GC
2015 AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open
-13 George Coetzee, Thorbjorn Olesen
-12 Mardan Mamat
-11 Thomas Aiken
Notes: Given its proximity to South Africa, perhaps it was no surprise that George Coetzee took victory. In all, there were four South Africans in the top 10.
No problems with the temperatures as they’re pushing towards 80 degrees on all four days. But in amongst the sunshine, there are dark clouds too and rain is likely on all four days. Winds look modest.
The Leading Contenders
Coetzee is back to defend although must do so at a different venue having won the title in a play-off at Heritage GC 12 months ago. We don’t have much recent form to go on though as Coetzee hasn’t played since finishing T35 on the PGA TOUR’s Puerto Rico Open at the end of March. Prior to that he’d won the South African Sunshine Tour’s Dimension Data Pro-Am in February. One of the class acts of the field, he’s a strong contender for captain (points tripled) on the European Tour Fantasy game.
Hend was fifth last year and should like this new course too if there’s room off the tee. He’s one of the in-form players on the European Tour right now having captured March’s Thailand Open and then finished fourth and sixth in the two recent events in China. Also putting nicely, so everything looks in place for a strong week from the big-hitting Aussie.
All the South Africans have to be respected this week (four made the top 10 in this event last year) and Van Zyl also has the lure of trying to book a place in the Olympics following the news that compatriots Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel won’t be heading to Brazil. Van Zyl, a winner for a 13th time on his home Sunshine Tour in February, is still looking for a first European Tour success but this must give him a decent chance.
The European Tour’s newest champion after he won last week’s Trophee Hassan II in dramatic style. The 20-year-old made an 18 footer to make the play-off, drained a 50-footer to stay alive in the play-off and nailed a 20-footer to win the play-off. He became the second Korean winner on the European Tour in three weeks after Soomin Lee landed the Shenzhen International in China. Wang played this event last year and finished T67 but did open with a 65.
Burmester posted T20 in this event last year and also took T14 in Morocco last week so he’s an in-form South African who has played well on the island before. That makes him one to look at closely for managers/bettors. He’s finished in the top 15 in seven of his last eight South African Sunshine Tour starts (two second places) so rarely seems to have a bad week.
A superb winner of the Shenzhen International in April, Lee popped up on home South Korean turf last week to finish runner-up in the OneAsia Tour’s Maekyung Open. Also second in Malaysia in February, Lee has now posted five top sevens in his last nine worldwide starts. There are very few in the field with anything like his credentials.
Another of the spate of new, fresh and exciting young winners on the European Tour this season. Stone’s win came in his home South African Open and he’s backed it up with a second place in the Shenzhen International last time and T10 in the Tshwane Open. In his last five worldwide starts he has two second places and two other top 10s so, despite some decent competition, he looks a strong contender for a spot on the six-man team used in the European Tour Fantasy game.
Having finished T15 (3rd after 54 holes) in the Volvo China Open and T10 in the Thailand Classic in his last four starts, the Belgian would have been one to consider anyway. What bumps him up the queue is his previous course experience at Four Seasons. Due to his links with the sponsors, Colsaerts knows the layout well and has finished T4 and T5 in the two editions of the AfrAsia Bank Masters held there. True, they were only 30-man fields but it’s an edge that could prove to be worth something.
The Next Rung
The South-African born Aussie was only T67 in this event last year so will hopefully do better on the new course. He’ll arrive in Mauritius on the back of a T10 at the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco last week while he also took third place in the Perth International four starts earlier. Second in scrambling in Morocco.
He’s won on home Chinese soil (the Volvo China Open two weeks ago), so can Li now show his best golf on foreign shores? Well, he’s made his last three cuts on the Web.com Tour and has a couple of T11s at that level. However, this is new territory for him and perhaps it’s asking a lot for another title challenge so soon.
Yep, it’s another of this season’s young winners. Porteous cashed in on local knowledge to win the Joburg Open in January and followed that breakthrough first European Tour victory with another triumph on the Sunshine Tour (Investec Cup) in March. Add in top 10s in Dubai and the Tshwane Open along with T19 in the China Open last time and he’s worth a close look. Missed the cut in this event at Heritage GC last year.
Not just another South African, he’s a former team-mate of Jordan Spieth no less. Yes, Frittelli had a decorated college career at the University of Texas where he once recalled that Spieth offered up hour-by-hour wind forecasts in team meetings! Frittelli, three years older than Spieth, is still making his way in the game but was runner-up at the Aussie PGA in December and has had four top 10s in his last seven starts, albeit on lesser tours.
Otto’s brand ambassador status didn’t help much last year when he missed the cut although he was troubled by a back injury so that can be dismissed. Otto has finished second (2014) and seventh (2015) in the two AfrAsia Bank Masters held at this course so he enjoys the layout designed by compatriot Ernie Els. He ended a poor run of form with T21 in the recent Volvo China Open when opening with a 63.
The man from Brazil was second in the Sunshine Tour’s Royal Swazi Sun Open two weeks ago and also fourth at the Indian Open on his last European Tour start so can be a factor in these weaker European Tour fields. He took part in the 2015 event at Heritage GC and posted T44 after a closing 68.
After a 10th (home Indian Open) and a 5th (Japan Tour’s Panasonic Open) on his two previous starts, Kapur was quietly fancied to show up strongly in the Trophee Hassan II. He never got going in Morocco, though, and had to settle for T59. Kapur will hope for better at Four Seasons having failed to cash at Heritage GC last year.
Any South African with decent recent form gets a mention this week. Hugo fits the bill having posted top sixes in two of his last four starts on the Sunshine Tour. He also made the cut in last week’s Trophee Hassan II although 77-78 on the weekend left him down in T74. The veteran played in this event at Heritage GC last year and closed with three 69s to squeeze into the top 30.
The Englishman wouldn’t normally get a mention given that he’s outside the top 400 in the world rankings but, as mentioned in the intro, he’s won both editions of the 30-man AfrAsia Bank Masters held at Four Seasons and is a brand ambassador. He missed the cut at Heritage last year but arrives back on familiar territory having posted a decent T22 at the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco. That was his best finish of the season and he also topped the All-Around stats there so he’s a contender for a pick.
Berardo was one of the many unexpected names to crop up on last week’s Trophee Hassan II leaderboard and the Frenchman went on to finish in third spot. He’s of interest again given that he played in the AfrAsia Bank Masters on this week’s course back in December. Finishing T16 of 30 doesn’t make him leap off the page but at least he knows the lie of the land.
Who’s On The Team?
Two of the field’s classier contenders – George Coetzee and Thorbjorn Olesen – fought out a play-off last year and I’d expect something similar despite the change in venue.
I’ll reveal my six-man line-up for the European Tour’s Fantasy game in Tuesday’s Playing The Tips feature.
One To Swerve
Nope, all the obvious contenders look to have a decent chance. I don’t want to fill this category for the sake of it.