Jonathan Caldwell and Cormac Sharvin are in Johannesburg this week for the first leg of the three tournament South African Swing – a run of co-sanctioned events with the Sunshine Tour which includes next week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship and the South African Open in early December.
While the rest of the country remains in lockdown, the Northern Irish pair have been counting their blessings off late, basking in sunshine for the recent two-tournament swing in Cyprus before making their way to the stunning surrounds of Randpark Golf Club this week.
Clandeboye professional Caldwell will hope to continue a remarkable run of form that his seen him post back-to-back career best ET finishes of tied-seventh at the Scottish Championship and tied-fifth at the Italian Open before qualifying for the Sunday Shootout at Aphrodite Hills where he finished tied 16th to bank €15,250. The 36-year old visited Randpark Golf Club back in January having only just earned his Tour card via Q-School and enjoyed all four rounds in posting a share of 57th, a result he’ll be hoping to improve upon given his recent form.
Ardglass professional Sharvin’s game has been edging ever-closer to the one that saw him make the leap from the Challenge Tour to the main circuit last season. Since the Italian Open at the end of October, the 28-year old has broken 70 eight times in ten rounds but only has a tied-28th result at the Cyprus Open to show for the progress. He’ll be hoping to string all four rounds together this week in South Africa to make up for lost time on Tour this season.
Meanwhile, home favourite Brandon Stone has his sights set on completing a South African “trilogy” by winning the Joburg Open. Stone has tasted victory at both of the other tournaments in the past and would like to complete the set by winning a Joburg Open crown at Randpark Golf Club this week. The 27-year-old, whose other European Tour title came at a Rolex Series event – the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open – in 2018, is looking to build on some promising performances in 2020.
Stone was in fine form immediately before the coronavirus hiatus in March, having been edged out by Sami Välimäki in a play-off at the Oman Open. And he has gone on to make four more top 20 finishes since the season resumed.
“I had a few nice results before the old lockdown kicked in – obviously losing the play-off in Oman,” said Stone. “And then over the last few months now I’ve slowly been getting back to that form again, it feels like it’s really coming together quite nicely now. The reward of having three tournaments in South Africa now is fantastic.
“This is the last leg of the trilogy of Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned tournaments that I’m fighting for now. I’ve got to try and chase down Haydn (Porteous) because he’s the one between the two of us that’s actually got this one. Obviously we’d love to add a victory this week but at the same time we’ve got three fantastic weeks to build on – three great courses leading up to the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai for us. Like I said, slowly found some progression so we’ll see if we can build some momentum.”
Stone’s fellow South African Richard Sterne knows what it takes to win this event, having done so twice – in 2008 and 2013. The Joburg Open is back on the schedule for the first time since the beginning of the 2018 Race to Dubai campaign in December 2017, while Sterne is also making his return this week, having not played since before lockdown due to a wrist operation.
He said: “I haven’t played golf since the Dimension Data Pro-Am. It’s the first 18 holes I’m getting in since then.I had an important wrist operation that I unfortunately needed to do. Touch wood it feels OK, it’s still maybe a bit early but I wanted to try to come and play.”
Thursday’s tee times (Irish time)
- 04.30am – Jonathan Caldwell
- 05.10am – Cormac Sharvin