European Tour Preview: January
In an effort to take a slightly longer look at what’s developing on the PGA and European Tours this year, we will begin presenting monthly previews of what’s coming up on the calendar on the two tours. Individual previews of the big tournaments will also continue in this space.
Locales of Record: South Africa, Malaysia, UAE, Qatar
The first two events of 2016 are both co-sponsored with the Sunshine Tour and both will take place in Johannesburg, South Africa. The South African Open, which begins on January 7, dates back all the way to 1903, although only white golfers could compete until 1972. South Africa native Gary Player dominated the event during his days, winning it 13 times in 25 years, including five in a row between 1965-1969. Andy Sullivan is the current champion after defeating Charl Schwartzel in a playoff. A South African hasn’t won here since Hennie Otto in 2011.
The Joburg Open follows, with another Brit, Andy Sullivan, out to defend the championship he won in a six-man playoff last year. The Joburg is played at the Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club in Johannesburg, South Africa, and has been on the Sunshine and European Tours since 2007. Sullivan is one of only three non-South African men to win the event.
Gary Stal is the defending champion, but Martin Kaymer is normally the man at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championships in UAE for the third week of the year. Kaymer has won the event three times since 2008, while Rory McIlroy has finished second or tied for second a remarkable four times in five years, three of those by one stroke.
The month rounds out with the Qatar Masters, where Branden Grace will attempt to defend his crown. Since 2007, this has been one of the most impressively fielded early tournaments on the tour,