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Ken Borland

Blair Atholl the longest course in Euro Tour history & a ‘Driver-fest’ according to Frittelli

Posted on March 08, 2023 by Ken

The Blair Atholl Golf and Country Estate course will play at 7462 metres for the South African Open starting on Thursday, the longest in DP World Tour history, and it will be a “Driver-fest” according to leading local contender Dylan Frittelli.

The 32-year-old Frittelli is one of a host of South Africans who generally compete abroad who have returned for the national open, the second oldest in the game, and still considered a hugely prestigious title.

Frittelli, who competes on the PGA Tour, is known as a solid and lengthy driver of the ball, so he was looking forward to tackling Blair Atholl for the first time.

“It’s what I expected – a long course with wide fairways,” Frittelli said after his pro-am round on Wednesday. “It will be a Driver-fest and I’m just going to try and hit the ball as long and as straight as I can.

“It’s a cliche but that and making some putts, on greens that have a lot more character than I was expecting, literally defines this course.

“I think we will be hitting a lot more shots from 140-190 metres on the par-fours, but if it stays dry and hot then we’ll still be hitting the ball 340 off the tee.

“So I think it’s going to be a good mix and I would urge the organisers not to push the tees forward. We don’t want 23-under winning the SA Open. And I’ve got to win the SA Open before my career is over,” Frittelli said.

Charl Schwartzel is another who is extremely determined to win the SA Open for the first time after some near misses, and he used to live on the Blair Atholl Estate, so he knows the course intimately. He and other returning South Africans like Branden Grace, George Coetzee, Thriston Lawrence and Shaun Norris are always a threat in these co-sanctioned events.

Defending champion Danie van Tonder looked in good form in last week’s Joburg Open but his putter just refused to play along, but a new host course for the SA Open could well throw up a new champion.

Dean Burmester seems to always be contending somewhere in the world these days and he is back, hungry and equipped with one of the biggest drives in the field.

“Blair Atholl is loooong, that was my first impression,” Burmester said. “There will be some positional stuff required and it lends itself to good mid and long iron play, but a lot of it is going to come down to long-hitting.

“The bunkers are often 300-310 metres from the tee and you need to be able to cover that in your game or it’s going to be a long week for you. If you’re short of that, then you better pack your fairway woods and metal hybrids.”

Wilco Nienaber is always up there with the longest drivers on tour and was in contention at the Joburg Open, but Louis de Jager is perhaps the dark horse to watch. He is a quality driver of the ball and his fifth place in the Joburg Open was his fourth top-10 finish since August.

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