28th Nov - 1st December
The dust has barely settled on the 2019 Race to Dubai, but that doesn’t stop the golf action coming thick and fast. This week’s event is the Alfred Dunhill Championship (Nov 28 – Dec 1), a co-sanctioned event by the Sunshine Tour and the European Tour.
The Alfred Dunhill Championship was established in 2000 and has been played at its present home at the Leopard Creek Golf Club, Madelane, Mpumalanga since 2004. It has a prize fund of €1,500,000 with the winner receiving €237,750.
Leopard Creek is located on the south side of the Kruger National Park and this par 72 course measures just under 7,300 yards. Since 2004, South African players have won nine of the 15 renewals. Charl Schwartzel has contributed four of those wins, with Ernie Els, Richard Sterne, Brandon Grace, Brandon Stone, and Garth Mulroy all winning once each.
Spanish players have won three times, with two wins for Pablo Martin and one for Alvaro Quiros, whilst there have also been wins for England’s John Bickerton and America’s David Lipsky, with the latter winning last year’s event.
That’s why it’s no surprise to see South African players dominating the market this week with nine of the top 11 players in the list. The bookmakers have made the ever-improving Erik Van Rooyen the favourite this week to add his name to the list of South African players.
Van Rooyen comes into the tournament in excellent nick after finishing 2/30/28 in the final three events of the 2019 European Tour season. As he’s ranked 50th in the world rankings, he should also be motivated by knowing a win here should seriously boost his chances of staying in the all-important top-50 that would get him into the US Masters in April.
But the trouble with backing Van Rooyen this week is his course form at Leopard Creek is nothing more than average, having finished 31/32/26 in the last three years. He’s a better player now but failed to break 70 last year on his way to finishing 12 shots behind the winner David Lipsky.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout is another young South African looking to step up into the big time after winning at Valderrama earlier in the season. He’s now ranked number 90 in the world and his performance in finishing 18th last season was a big improvement on his previous performances of MC and 56th. However, he ruined his chances with an 84 in round three in 2017, and again showed he can go low here last year when bookending rounds of 69 and 66 with two rounds of 75. He could win with four good rounds, but he doesn’t offer much value at 14/1.
Eddie Pepperrell is officially the highest-ranked player in the field and the Englishman must be respected having made the trip to South Africa after missing the last two events of the season. He had shown some good form going into the Turkish Airlines Open but was disqualified in round three. He’s another who will be keen to hang on to his top-50 status, so a bold show isn’t ruled out.
Brandon Grace is a former winner of this event and he should be desperate to recapture some of his former glory as he’s slipped to 130th in the world after a poor year. But the problem with backing him is he’s not shown much sign of rising from the doldrums, finishing just 39th in the Nedbank last time.
That’s why I’m taking on the market leaders with the first of this week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship free tips, Brandon Stone. He’s another South African, and he’s also shown he has what it takes to win here having claimed the title in 2017 with an impressive winning score of –21. He’s now finished 18/1/15 in the last three editions, whilst a recent tied second in the Portugal Masters when last seen means he should arrive here full of confidence.
The second of this week’s free tips for the Alfred Dunhill Championship is Zander Lombard, another South African that seemed to get to grips with the Leopard Creek layout last year when finishing third. Lombard didn’t make it to Dubai last week but had been in great form up until then having finished eighth at the Open de Espana, 17th at the Turkish Airlines Open, and eighth at the Nedbank Challenge. He could go well in this weaker event in which the market leaders lack course form.