SA Open Championship preview

Hennie Otto defends the SA Open Championship this week at the Serengeti Golf & Wildlife Estate in Ekurhuleni, South Africa. Martin Kaymer and Charl Schwartzel are in the field

Hennie Otto

Lowdown: Hennie Otto defends the SA Open Championship this week at the Serengeti Golf & Wildlife Estate in Ekurhuleni, South Africa. Martin Kaymer and Charl Schwartzel are in the field.

Together with the UBS Hong Kong Open, also taking place this week, this is the final European Tour event before the season ending DP World Championship in Dubai. That means it's the last chance for players to make the crucial top-60 who qualify for that lucrative competition.

Jaco Van Zyl is currently 64th on the standings so he'll be hoping for a good performance here to move up the list. It'll be a nerve-wracking weekend as players will have to watch, not only who's doing what in this event, but also who's playing well in Hong Kong.

It's also the last chance for those outside the top 115 to earn enough money to secure their playing rights on the European Tour for 2013.

As you would expect, there's a strong South African representation in the event. Charl Schwartzel is joined by Branden Grace, George Coetzee, Richard Sterne and Jbe Kruger, amongst many others.

This is one of the oldest events to feature on the European Tour. The first South African Open was contested as an exhibition tournament in 1893 and 2010 saw the 100th staging of the great competition.

The great South African golfers of the last 75 years have made this tournament their own. Bobby Locke won nine times between 1935 and 1955 before Gary Player took over, winning 13 times from 1956 to 1981. Other South African Major winners - Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Trevor Immelman have all lifted the trophy.

Last year's tournament was won by home player Hennie Otto. He survived a nervy back nine to win by a single shot from Austria's Bernd Wiesberger.

Opened for play in 2009, the Serengeti Golf Club is a Jack Nicklaus design laid out attractively across the grassland. Water is a feature on a number of holes, particularly on the run for home.

Venue: Serengeti Golf & Wildlife Estate, Ekurhuleni, South Africa Date: Nov 15-18 Course stats: par 72, 7,761 yards Purse: ?1,000,000 Defending Champion: Hennie Otto (-14)

TV Coverage: Thursday 15 - Sky Sports 2 from 9am Friday 16 - Sky Sports 2 from 9am Saturday 17 - Sky Sports 3 from 10.30am Sunday 18 - Sky Sports 3 from 10.30am

Player Watch:

George Coetzee - He's one of the very best players on the European Tour yet to record a victory. This could be the week he changes that. He was tied 14th last week and has three top-six finishes in his last five starts.

Jaco Van Zyl - Needs a good week to make it to the DP World Championship. Solid performance here last year and last week in Singapore. Look for him to have the bit between his teeth this week.

Jbe Kruger - He was disappointing last week in Singapore but he's been playing well before then. He was eighth in the PGA Tour's CIMB Classic and managed a top-25 in this tournament last year.

Key hole: 16th. A par 5 of over 600 yards that asks a couple of difficult strategic questions. For most players it will be three shots if the tee is back, but deciding where to lay up could be tricky. The fairway splits in two as it approaches the green - the left hand option provides the more appealing pitch into the green but with water on three sides, it's still a risky one.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?