Branden Grace in action. Picture: JOHAN RYNNERS/R&A/R&A/GETTY IMAGES
Branden Grace in action. Picture: JOHAN RYNNERS/R&A/R&A/GETTY IMAGES

The South African Swing tees off in earnest on Thursday as the Joburg Open marks the start of a three-week run of tournaments co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and European Tour.

The Joburg Open provided the European Tour breakthrough for SA’s Branden Grace, George Coetzee and Haydn Porteous, as well as India’s Shubhankar Sharma, and its return to the international schedule has been welcomed as a timely boost in a challenging year.

“It’s always nice to come back and see your name on tournament boards. It’s been a tough year, and to see my name as a past champion and be able to reflect back on what was a really good start to my career is great,” said 2016 champion Porteous.

“It feels like it was yesterday,” said Sharma as he reflected on his victory in the previous Joburg Open in 2017. “That’s where it all started for me. I had my second European Tour win shortly after that, so I have fond memories of this tournament.”

Scotland’s David Drysdale finished third in the 2012 Joburg Open, and in the greater context of what 2020 represents, he’s equally grateful to be back playing a tournament he wasn’t sure would go ahead.

“It’s so good to be back here. A few months ago we thought we wouldn’t be coming down to SA. It’s just brilliant to be here.”

Young South African Dylan Naidoo was still a junior when he came to watch the 2016 event that Porteous won. This week, he tees up as a professional, and is well aware of the boost this event could give his career.

“It’s a special tournament for me. I received an invitation to play in it when I’d just turned 17 and was still an amateur. I was quite surprised at the time. I have a lot of good memories from here and those are what are fuelling me now.”

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