George Coetzee and Dean Burmester, who have five European Tour wins between them, return to Southern Africa this week to star in the Investec Royal Swazi Open at the Royal Swazi Spa Country Club.
Although neither has won the tournament, which is in its 47th year, they are both high-profile representatives of the sponsors and they commit to playing the event which was first played in 1971. The venerable tournament has such champions as multiple major champions Ernie Els and John Daly.
The defending champion is Peter Karmis, and he welcomes the return of the European Tour stars to the local event.
‘It makes it more exciting,’ said Karmis.
‘We obviously want to compete with the best in the world, so the better the players who are here, the better for us. Also, there are more world ranking points and that sort of thing, so, honestly, the stronger the field, the better.’
Burmester finished in a share of 22nd last year in the corresponding event, while Coetzee finished in a share of fifth. They were both on duty in the conflicting AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open for the previous two years, and the change in the date of that event has meant they can come back to a tournament that suits their style of play.
The tournament is played on a Modified Stableford points system, in which five points can be won for an eagle, two for a birdie, while a point is lost for a bogey and three for a double or worse.
That clearly encourages aggressive play, but, as Karmis points out, is it also punitive for wayward play.
‘If I can just eliminate bogeys,’ he said. ‘That will give me a good chance to get in the mix here. For me, the fewer bogeys I’m making means I actually start making more birdies. If I try to make more birdies, I end up making more bogeys. Going the negative route almost helps me free it up.’
Karmis famously freed it up when he won the Lombard Insurance Classic on the eSwatini course in 2009 with a final round 59. During that 13-under-par effort, he made three eagles and seven birdies without dropping a shot.
Of the two European Tour stars, Coetzee has the better recent form, with a second win in his ‘home’ Tshwane Open in March and a fourth-place finish in April’s Open de Espana.
Burmester, on the other hand, has a best finish of a share of 30th in the WGC-Mexico Championship in March, and he will be keen to use this opportunity in a relaxed atmosphere back in Africa to get things back on track.
They will both be in the sights of local players, not least Karmis.
‘There are lots of birdies to be made here. If you can just keep it in front of you, then you’re in business here,’ he said.
Credit: Sunshine Tour