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Home-based players eye win at East London

Updated: Wednesday, 12 Feb 2014 16:12 | Comments

East London Golf Club stands at just 6,632 yards
East London Golf Club stands at just 6,632 yards

South African players will look to continue their remarkable dominance of events on home soil in this week's Africa Open at East London.

George Coetzee's victory in the Joburg Open on Sunday means nine of the last 12 European Tour events staged in South Africa have been won by home players, with all four previous Africa Opens won by South Africans.

And although Coetzee will not be in East London after withdrawing from the event in order to prepare for next week's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona, Justin Walters is just one of his compatriots aiming to make the most of home advantage.

Walters finished joint second behind Coetzee last week, the 33-year-old sharing the lead with another South African, Thomas Aiken, going into the final round but struggling to a closing 73.

"Any time you start to feel a bit of form you want to continue," Walters told a pre-tournament press conference. "You never know week to week what's going to happen, but I'd like to get the momentum going and not be a one-week wonder.

"The game is its own beast, because we're in a different part of the country, different greens, different conditions, but I'd like to build towards something, get myself into position again and do a better job at the end."

At 6,632 yards, East London Golf Club is very short by modern standards, with strong coastal winds its major defence against the kind of scoring which saw former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen win with a total of 27 under par in 2012.

"If there is no wind then you have to be aggressive this week," Walters added ahead of the seventh South African event out of eight on the European Tour this season. "The only real defence to this course is the wind, and when it blows this course becomes a real animal.

"So it largely depends on the conditions. The course is in great shape and if the weather is kind then we'll see a lot of birdies and guys being quite aggressive.

"The greens are firmer than last week, so if you're not in the fairway it will be harder to get at the pins. If it's in range than I will throw it as close as I can and hopefully it works out."

South African Darren Fichardt lifted the title 12 months ago, finishing two shots ahead of compatriot Jaco van Zyl and France's Gregory Bourdy.

Van Zyl has an excellent record at East London, finishing 28th, fourth, fourth and second in the last four years at a combined total of 64 under par.

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