Alfred Dunhill Championship
The European Tour and Sunshine Tour co-host this week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship, an event that takes place in the heart
of the Kruger National Park at the beautiful Leopard Creek Country Club.
The Gary Player design plays to a yardage of 7,287, and is known for its undulating greens and plentiful water features. Winning scores here have varied greatly in recent years, ranging from 11-under-par four years ago to 24-under-par in the penultimate edition, so it’s a course that clearly yields no shortage of birdies, but there’s plenty of trouble too.
Charl Schwartzel’s record in this event is simply exceptional which explains his single-figure price at the head of the betting. However, whilst four wins and two runner-up finishes in this event speaks for itself in terms of course form, his current form is notably poorer than in previous years. As well as a handful of mediocre performances over the last month or so, last week marks the first occasion he has failed to crack the top-10 in the Nedbank Golf Challenge, so I think he can be swerved this week.
There is no magic formula which links previous winners of this event that we can easily draw upon, especially in light of the domination of Charl Schwartzel. However, last year’s event shows an interesting trend that relates to the Perth International, which took place a few weeks previously. To put this into numbers – five of the top-10 on last year’s leaderboard here at Leopard Creek had notched a top-12 finish in Perth the previous month. Whilst we only have one year of Perth International event form to draw upon, I suspect this is more than mere coincidence.
Drawing on this Perth International link, one man who could be found inside the top-10 six weeks ago was American Peter Uilhein. The 25-year-old did suffer a loss of form around the middle of this season (missing eight straight cuts at one point), but steadily retrieved the kind of form that saw him win on his 2013 rookie season, following up his top-10 in Perth with a tie for 11th in the high-profile Turkish Airlines Open. Intriguingly, that very event was won by his close friend Brooks Koepka, which may just act as the catalyst for Uilhein to get back on the winner’s podium. Furthermore, The American has previous form in South Africa having finished in the top-5 in each of the last two editions of the Tshwane Open.
Still searching for his maiden victory on the European Tour, Andy Sullivan is seemingly edging ever closer to that elusive first title – and this type of field should present a good opportunity for him to do just that. Sullivan ticks the two obvious boxes that punters look for every week in terms of course form (3-14) and recent form (4-21), but to add further fuel to the fire, Sullivan’s low round here at Leopard Creek is an 8-under-par 64 which is no mean feat. The Englishman also boasts other good finishes to his name in South Africa having finished in the top-5 in both the 2013 Africa Open and this year’s Joburg Open.Andy Sullivan - 1pt e/w @ 25/1Lost -2pt
The South African who offers the most appeal to me in the betting this week is Jbe Kruger who also seems to be rounding into form very nicely with top-10 finishes in each of his last three worldwide starts (the last of which came here in South Africa where he missed out on the playoff by one stroke). Kruger has played some solid golf at Leopard Creek in previous years too with top-10 finishes in two of his last three starts here. Furthermore, the 28-year-old was the 36-hole leader in the 2011 event having opened with rounds of 64-67.Jbe Kruger - 1pt e/w @ 35/1Lost -2pt
I generally avoid players who have been away from the game (competitively) for more than a month or so, but I’m going to chance Lucas Bjerregaard here who comes here off the back of a pair of top-5 finishes. The most recent of these came in the shape of a tie for 4th at the aforementioned Perth International where he putted extremely well (an attribute which is sure to be tested on the undulating greens of Leopard Creek this week). Aside from his two recent top-5s, it’s interesting to note that Bjerregaard three best finishes last season all came in Africa including a tie for 16th here at Leopard Creek 12 months ago.Lucas Bjerregaard - 1pt e/w @ 50/1Lost -2pt
My rank outsider for this week is a European Tour rookie in the shape of Jordi Garcia Pinto. Generally speaking, I prefer a certain level of prior experience of Leopard Creek, as it’s the sort of course that needs to be ‘learnt’. However, a handful of players have notched top-5s on their debuts here in recent years, and the Spaniard has previous form in Africa having won the 2013 Kenya Open and he comes here off the back of a top-10 finish in his last competitive outing. What I also like about the 24-year-old is that he is seemingly unfazed by making the step-up in grade to higher-profile events having claimed top-5 finishes in both of the co-sanctioned events he played last season.Jordi Garcia Pinto - 1pt e/w @ 250/1Lost -2pt