The 2014 European Tour circuit gets underway this week in an event co-sanctioned with the Sunshine Tour. An impressive field has assembled for the South African Open Championship hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni.

Charl Schwartzel will tee it up at Glendower GC in Ekurhuleni near Johannesburg and he’s joined on the start sheet by Thomas Levet, David Duval, Ross Fisher and Paul McGinley amongst others.

It’s a good chance this week for players from the Sunshine Tour to stamp their mark on the European Tour, and for those who’ve earned European Tour playing rights through the Challenge Tour or Q School to make and impression on the circuit.

This will be the 102nd staging of the South African Open Championship It was first held as an exhibition tournament in 1893 and, since then only eight players from outside Africa have lifted the trophy.

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.

In last season’s event, Henrik Stenson claimed his first European Tour title in five years. The Swede won by three from George Coetzee of South Africa and then went on to have a phenomenally successful year in 2013.

Stenson is not back to defend his title this year. After his victory in Dubai last week, he’s decided to take some time off in an effort to give his injured wrist a break.

The course at Glendower was opened for play in 1937 but significant re-design work was completed in the 1980s. The layout has welcomed the South African Open on three previous occasions – 1989, 1993 and 1997.

Glendower GC, Ekurhuleni, Gauteng, South Africa
Date: Nov 21-24
Course stats: par 72, 6,899 yards
Purse: €1,100,000 Winner: €174,350
Defending Champion: Henrik Stenson (-17)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 21 – Sky Sports 4 from 8.30am
Friday 22 – Sky Sports 4 from 8.30am
Saturday 23 – Sky Sports 4 from 10.30am
Sunday 24 – Sky Sports 4 from 10.30am

Player Watch:

Charl Schwartzel – The 2011 Masters champion has won five times in South Africa on the European Tour, but never the South African Open. He’d love to add it to his CV and he’ll start as strong favourite this week.

Jaco Van Zyl – He has split his time between European and Sunshine Tours in 2013 and has enjoyed success on each, particularly when the European Tour has visited his home country. Look out for him to put in another solid performance this week.

Alejandro Canizares – The Spaniard was in contention in Dubai through two rounds, but faded over the weekend to finish in a tie for 14th. If he can string four good scores together, he could be a factor this week.

Where next?
World Cup of Golf – Preview