Will it be death or glory at Randpark’s tough Firethorn at Joburg Open?
JOHANNESBURG - Taming the tough Firethorn course at Randpark Golf Club will be no easy task for the 156 players who have their sights set on claiming the Joburg Open title come Sunday.
With narrow fairways, thick rough, plenty of bunkers and water, as well as lightening fast greens it is a layout that will challenge the best in the world.
But you wouldn’t expect anything different from a tournament with a prize pool of R19.5-million as the South African swing, co-sanctioned by the
Sunshine Tour and the European Tour, gets underway today.
At 6 862 metres long, this par71 parklands course has some truly devilish holes; the second is a par-5 for the members but the pros will be playing at as a par-4 and will need to stay out of the drink on the right; the par-3 eighth is long with water down the right and hitting the green from the tee box is paramount.
On the back nine the final three holes, known as ‘Death or Glory’, will sort the contenders from the pretenders.
The 16th is a long, dog-leg left with a large dam on the left right up against the fairway from about 130m short of the green all the way up to the green, and the fairway slopes towards the water, accentuating the danger.
No 17 is a long and beautiful hole that has broken many hearts, any tee shot marginally left will likely end up in the dam, so the safe play is to aim right, where a bunker lies in wait.
The final hole is a beast, there is no other way to put it. At 464m and uphill, it takes two cracking shots to get on the green, a green full of deadly slopes, in regulation.
But there are also some holes that are pretty much guaranteed birdie, or even eagle, holes.
The ninth is short and sweet so long as you avoid the fairway bunkers and those around the green, the longer hitters should have a crack with driver from 348m.
All the par-fives – four, 12 and 14 – should give up a lot of birdies this week, but the 500m 14th will have the players licking their chops.
A drive in the fairway will leave them with nothing more than a midiron to the hole.
Local bombers like Dean Burmester, Brandon Stone (who has five top-20 finishes this season) and young Wilco Nienaber will be tough to beat, especially at altitude.
But don’t discount defending champion Shubhankar Sharma, who earned his first European
Tour victory at the Joburg Open in December 2017.
“I’m really happy that I’m back,” said Sharma, who has waited nearly three years to defend his title, earlier this week.
“I have so many great memories from two years ago when I won and that’s where it all started for me, so I’m really looking forward to playing here again.”
By Michael Oakley