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The Blair Atholl Golf & Equestrian Estate course will make history this week as the longest-yet course played on the DP World Tour when the first round of the Investec SA Open tees off on Thursday.

The 7,528m par-72 course designed by Gary Player is predicted to be a tough test with a few changes from last year.

“We’ve had the best part of a year to prepare for this year’s SA Open and the course will play a little differently to last year,” said Paul Marks, the director of golf at the Blair Atholl Golf & Equestrian Estate.

“The golfers will have to be more accurate off the tee this year. Last year the rough wasn’t penal enough so we’ve grown the rough. If a long hitter is slightly offline, the second shot will definitely be more challenging this year.

“We’ve also narrowed the fairways on some of the holes by about three to four metres on either side, so that will place an even greater premium on accuracy off the tee. This is a wide golf course, but it will definitely be more challenging off the tee this year and not just place a premium on length off the tee.”

Dan Bradbury is hoping he can build on the momentum of securing a return to The Open by mounting another title challenge at Blair Atholl on Thursday.

Though the Englishman was unable to successfully defend his title at the Joburg Open last week, the 24-year-old secured one of three spots on offer in the field for golf’s oldest Major championship by finishing third at the Houghton Golf Club.

A final round 64 in the opening event of the Open qualifying series ensured his place at Royal Troon, having made his Open Championship debut earlier this year at Royal Liverpool.

Bradbury is fourth in the fledgling standings on the Race to Dubai Rankings for the 2024 season and is eager to build on his stellar record on SA soil.

“I’m very happy with the result of last week, but I probably didn’t play my best stuff, especially on the greens and around the greens. So hopefully we can keep the long game up and get the short game dialled in.”

Asked what earning a return to The Open meant, he said: “Everything. For anybody outside America, it’s the event. Just to get the opportunity to tee it up there again, it’s going to be really special and I’m already looking forward to it.”

Before his fine start to the new season last week, Bradbury recorded four top 20s in as many starts at the end of the last campaign to finish 36th on the Race to Dubai Rankings. During that run, he finished fifth on debut at the Nedbank Golf Challenge and said there were no real secrets to why he feels so at home in SA.

“It is the weather, this time of year as well,” he said. “It’s just a nice time of year coming off the back of the finish to the Race to Dubai. There is not much pressure on, so I am just going out there and playing golf.”

SA’s Christiaan Bezuidenhout wrote his name into the proud history of SA golf and this championship with his SA Open victory in 2020.

“This is special for any SA golfer growing up. It’s the one you really want to win and I’ve been fortunate enough to have ticked it off, but I’d love to add my name to it again,” he said.

The second-oldest national Open in golf has drawn another strong field. Thriston Lawrence is back to defend his title alongside former champions Bezuidenhout, Daniel van Tonder, Hennie Otto, Brandon Stone and Andy Sullivan, Major winner Charl Schwartzel, last week’s Joburg Open champion Dean Burmester, and a selection of GolfRSA’s top amateurs led by world No 1 amateur and winner of The Amateur Championship this year, Christo Lamprecht. 

DP World Tour, Sunshine Tour

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