JOHANNESBURG - If recent form is anything to go by, then there’s only one man to beat at the Joburg Open starting at the Randpark Golf Club on Thursday: Dylan Frittelli.
To say the 27-year-old Johannesburg-born golfer is in a purple patch would be an under-statement. He is coming off his second European Tour win in Mauritius last weekend, after winning the Lyoness Open in France in June, and has come close on a number of other occasions around the world recently.
Just a few weeks ago he was runner-up at the Turkish Airlines Open after a stunning display of chipping from off the green, and two weeks later tied for fourth at the season-ending DP World Tour Championships in Dubai.
So, with Louis Oosthuizen out of this week’s tournament - after damaging his fingers on his right hand in a freak airport trolley incident - it’s no surprise Frittelli appears to be the hot favourite and the man to beat.
“Yeah, I’m very excited to be here. It’s always nice being back in your home town and being able to sleep in your own bed,” said the now world No 55 on Wednesday. “I’ve had a good couple of weeks and the form’s been good coming here so I’m excited to get going.”
The R16.5-million tournament is being held at Randpark for the first time and will boast a record field of 240 players, teeing it up on the Bushwillow and Firethorn courses over the first and second rounds. The weekend’s play will happen only on the recently redesigned Firethorn layout.
The last time Frittelli played competitively at Randpark was 11 years ago, as a junior, but he is confident he will be able to navigate his way around the courses over the next few days, thanks mainly to his caddie John Curtis. Frittelli is not big on practice rounds, preferring to stay fresh for the “four days work”.
“It depends on the course and where I am,” he said when quizzed about his build-up to tournaments, which is sometimes quite different to the norm. "If I’m somewhere I haven’t played before I will go two practice rounds, like the courses this year in Europe ... Abu Dhabi, the French Open, all the Rolex Series events.”
Dylan Frittelli loves chips 🍟 pic.twitter.com/6QY7cfMPHh
“But if I’ve played the course before and know it and the lines off the tee then there’s no real need to play. For me it’s about getting my body in shape. As long as I’m striking it well I’m happy to step up on the first tee, feeling fresh and going for it. I’ve got full faith in my caddie and the yardage book, everything else is in front of me.
"Firethorn has obviously changed a lot since I was last here, but I did play a round with one of my cousins six weeks ago, and it’s very different, while Bushwillow I’ll play blind. But my caddie will walk it and we’ll figure it out and hopefully make some birdies.”
Oosthuizen withdrew from the tournament on Wednesday morning and instilled Frittelli as the favourite in a field including defending champion Darren Fichardt, 2016 champ Haydn Porteous, Dean Burmester, Jbe Kruger, Thomas Aiken, Erik van Rooyen and a host of promising and established players from the Sunshine, European, and Asian tours.