Alfred Dunhill Championship
  • Full preview of the Alfred Dunhill Championship with The Golf Insider
  • Five value picks, ranging from $15 to $226 in the market

It’s South Africa again for the European Tour, with the Alfred Dunhill Championship held at Leopard Creek once again this year

It’s an event dominated by the presence of home-based talent, but there’s still a host of familiar names in the line-up.

Here’s a preview of the action in Mpumalanga…

The Tournament

First played in 1995, what started out as a Sunshine Tour event has now been grafted onto the European Tour schedule. What we tend to find with tournaments that are played outside of Europe at this time of year is a mixed bag of players drawn from Australasia, Europe, Asia and the host nation. But given this is South Africa’s “golf season”, we have a strong number of home-based players in the line-up and a number of them near the top of the market (Bezuidenhout, Grace, Sterne, Schwartzel, Coetzee, Lombard, Stone).

The Course

After a few moves early in its life, the tournament has now found a regular venue at Leopard Creek CC, situated in Malelane, on the border of the Kruger National Park. Opened in 1996 – and used every year for this event since 2005 – it’s a Gary Player design that stretches out over 7,287 yards, playing as a par 72. The course is littered with water hazards and sand traps, making accuracy off the tee and fairway critical.

72-Hole Record

266: Marcel Siem (2004)

18-Hole Record

61: Thomas Aiken (2008)

Past Winners

2018: David Lipsky

2016: Brandon Stone

2015: Charl Schwartzel

2014: Branden Grace

2013: Charl Schwartzel

There was no event in 2017 as the course was being renovated.

The Field

A regulation field in terms of numbers, if not quality, 156 players head to South Africa this week. Christiaan Bezuidenhout is the $13 favourite with Ladbrokes.

The Weather

In two words… dry and hot. There’s a minimal chance of the players seeing any rain this week… in fact they’ll barely be able to spot a cloud. Temperatures will hit the high 80s, and wind speeds will struggle to get above a light breeze at 5-10mph. So it’s going to be warm!

Value Outright Bets

Brandon Stone (currently $15 at Ladbrokes)

I certainly wouldn’t chase the price much lower about Stone. But for me he strikes the right balance between the ability to win this week and a fair price in the market. Anything bigger than 20s would have been generous, so I’ll take the price on offer as a reasonable mark, nothing more. Stone is a native South African, a former champion at Leopard Creek, and has shown scraps of form recently which suggest he’s coming to the boil at the right time. The domination of home players is well-documented in this tournament and added to a weak field, to focus the bulk of our attention on those with Sunshine Tour pedigree make perfect sense. Stone’s last outing was a second place finish at the Portugal Masters, and I expect him to go every bit as well, if not better, this week.

Zander Lombard (currently $23 at Ladbrokes)

As I said about Stone, the value at the head of the market is a little hit-and-miss. Bezuidenhout won for us at the Andalucia Masters and should like this week’s test, but he’s mighty skinny at $13. Schwartzel is just back from injury, Grace has struggled for form these past 18 months, and the sole European is Eddie Pepperell – I’m just not sure his game is ideally suited to Leopard Creek. We’ve backed Lombard once or twice before this year, generally at much bigger prices in more competitive events. This isn’t the case this week with the bases loaded with South African talent and much of that unlikely to feature come the weekend. Lombard was placed here twelve months ago and is a young improving talent that can build on an eighth place finish in his last start in the Nedbank, where he shot a 77 on Sunday.

Thomas Aiken (currently $91 at Ladbrokes)

With value generally thin on the ground at the front of the market, I think it’s definitely worth looking for some options further down the betting. Aiken had a rather poor 2019 season but did finish with a couple of solid outings at the Open de Espana (23rd), and he closed out the season in Portugal with 31st at a venue which didn’t play to his strengths. Aiken is a player who often finds his best form when he returns to South Africa and his course record is impressive enough with four Top 10s and seven Top 20s to his name. Leopard Creek is a course that requires accuracy and course management more than brute force and distance, and Aiken is one of the most accurate drivers in golf so has a big advantage over most this week. At $91 he looks a solid each-way play.

Hadyn Porteous (currently $111 at Ladbrokes)

The opening prices of $151+ looked huge given Porteous is a multiple European Tour winner and a serious talent, not to mention the fact that one of these victories was at the Joburg Open in South Africa. Like Aiken he had a relatively poor 2019 campaign, but home comforts this week could see the powerhouse South African find his best form once again. Porteous played well enough last year but by his high standards he didn’t compete for enough wins, which would have disappointed him. He did however make nine of his last 14 cuts and if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years trading these SA events, it’s that European Tour players are head and shoulders above their South African counterparts. You can just about rule out 50% of the field which is why anything bigger than 100/1 on Porteous is massive this week.

Lorenzo Gagli (currently $226 at Ladbrokes)

Finally, I’m adding Gagli to my staking plan as his price looks wildly out of line. Gagli is a shrewd tee-to-green operator who should thrive on this week’s course. He nearly won the Omega Masters in the Swiss Alps a few months back, and in his second to last start finished 32nd at the Open de France on a tough layout. His last event was the Portugal Masters where he missed the cut, but he ranked first in Strokes Gained: Approach over the first two days which just goes to show he’s playing better than his results might suggest. Portugal was all about going low and putting well, whereas this week you need to find fairways and greens… and Gagli can do this in spades. Another big positive is the fact he won the Kenya Open in 2018 on the Challenge Tour, so he knows how to win in Africa. He’s a no-brainer and anything bigger than 200/1 and I think he could surprise a lot of people this week.

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