For the third consecutive week, the DP World Tour stays in South Africa for the 18th playing of the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
It was first staged in January of 2000 and played at this season’s Joburg Open venue - Houghton Golf Club.
The Alfred Dunhill Championship moved to its current venue, Leopard Creek, in 2004 and has been played there since.
This week’s event is co-sanctioned between the DP World Tour and the Sunshine Tour, in which both the last two week’s Joburg Open and South African Open were as well.
Last year’s 17th playing of the Alfred Dunhill Championship saw home favorite Okie Strydom claim victory in emotional fashion. In front of family and friends he was able to hold off Adrian Otaegui of Spain by two strokes.
Strydom will be back this week in an attempt to defend his title.
Dean Burmester is also teeing it up this week as the South African looks to make it a trifecta in South Africa after claiming both the Joburg Open and South African Open in respective weeks.
Of course there will be a heavy dosage of South Africans in this field alongside Strydom and Burmester. Other notable South Africans playing this week include Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Jaco Van Zyl and Branden Grace.
Bezuidenhout won this event in 2020, Brandon Stone won in 2016, Grace won in 2014 and Charl Schwartzel won in 2004, 2012, 2013 and 2015 and will each be representing South Africa this week.
Notable non-South Africans in this week’s field include Ewen Ferguson, Guido Migliozzi, Antoine Rozner and Dan Bradbury.
Leopard Creek Country Club in Malelane, South Africa is one of the most visibly appealing golf courses in the entire world.
It sits on the edge of Kruger National Park and the camera often captures surrounding wildlife that include leopards, impalas, zebras, crocodiles, hippos and many more native species.
It is a Gary Player design that was opened in 1996 and plays as a Par 72 at 7,249 yards.
There was no event in 2018 as this course underwent an extensive and complete overhaul.
In that overhaul, the previous Kikuyu fairways and rough were changed to a cynodon warm-season Bermuda grass.
Due to this, the fairways now run much faster than ever before which brings many of the course’s bunkers into play.
The fairways featured this week are undulating and lined with natural bushes and trees. There are many water hazards that come into play this week off-the-tee as well.
The greens were also changed from Creeping Bent to a genetically engineered ultradwarf Bermuda called Champion G-12. That grass is the same strain planted at Quail Hollow prior to the 2017 US PGA Championship.
Through all of this, the course hardly changed visually but the changes from the kikuyu to Bermuda grass has sped the track up significantly, especially the greens.
The changes have helped increase the overall course difficulty and help keep the scoring at bay.
The signature hole here at Leopard Creek is the par five 13th that features a green that overlooks Crocodile River.
This course plays on the shorter side of the DP World Tour average, especially compared to the previous two tracks we’ve seen in South Africa over the last two weeks.
Most of the yardage this week is made up of the four par fives which are also shorter holes compared to the DP World Tour average. Most of them can be reached in two for most of the week.
We may be in line for some wet conditions this week as of the time of writing this, there is a 35-percent chance of precipitation on Thursday, a 65-percent chance on Friday and a 60-percent chance on Sunday. Right now, only Saturday looks to be clear with a zero-percent chance of precipitation. Highs will vary drastically, opening at 77-degrees on Thursday before climbing to 90 and 89-degrees respectively for Friday and Saturday. Temperature will then fall again to 73-degrees on Sunday. Winds will range from six-to-nine miles-per-hour across the four days as well.
Greens in Regulation Percentage (GIR%)
Strokes Gained: Putting (SG: PUTT) / Putts per Greens in Regulation
Strokes Gained: Off the Tee (SG: OTT)
Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)
Par Four Average Scoring
Thriston Lawrence (+1400)\
Lawrence has been in some great form to start this 2023-2024 season in South Africa. It has been just two weeks since he dropped the ball on Sunday at the Joburg Open, surrendering his multi-stroke lead en route to a T7th finish. He bounced back with a T10th at last week’s South African Open as well. He very well could have won both of those aforementioned tournaments if it wasn’t for a 75 on the final round of the Joburg Open and a 74 in the third round at the South African Open. Now, he looks to put all of that behind him and leave his home-swing with a victory. He also finished the 2022-2023 DP World Tour season 17th in putts per greens in regulation, 19th in SG: OTT, 22nd in GIR%, 38th in SG: APP, 41st in par four average scoring, 99th in scrambling and 108th in SG: PUTT. Although he is below average in SG: PUTT his putts per greens in regulation is darn near elite. I’m playing two units on him this week.
Ewen Ferguson (+3000)
Per my model this week, Ferguson is my overall favorite to win. He finished the last DP World Tour season fifth in SG: APP, sixth in GIR%, 38th in par four average scoring, 42nd in scrambling, 57th in SG: OTT, 68th in SG: PUTT and 90th in putts per greens in regulation. His putting is slightly-above average on the DP World Tour and that is his biggest weakness this week. We’re getting great value on Ferguson due to his missed cut a week ago at the South African Open. Prior to that however, he placed T9th at the DP World Tour Championship among a field of the DP World Tour’s best and a handful of the PGA Tour’s biggest names. I’m playing a unit on him this week.
Antoine Rozner (+3500)
We haven’t seen Rozner on the DP World Tour since the DP World Tour Championship where he placed T11th. That tied him with the likes of Tyrrell Hatton and above names such as Tom Kim and Min Woo Lee. He finished the last season tenth in GIR%, 19th in par four average scoring, 29th in SG: APP, 49th in scrambling, 51st in SG: PUTT, 55th in SG: OTT and 96th in putts per greens in regulation. I’m playing a unit on him this week.
Aaron Cockerill (+8000)
When it comes to putting, there are very few on the DP World Tour better than Cockerill. Cockerill finished the last DP World Tour season third in SG: PUTT, 20th in putts per greens in regulation, 36th in par four average scoring, 60th in GIR%, 71st in scrambling, 85th in SG: OTT and 107th in SG: APP. The approach numbers are not ideal, but with slightly above average numbers in GIR% and being an elite putter, Cockerill offers great value this week. The Canadian has had back-to-back showings in South Africa the past two weeks, going T32nd at the Joburg Open and T25th at the South African Open. This course fits his game much better than the previous two. I’m playing a unit on him this week.
Matthew Southgate (+9000)
Southgate is not in the best of form, missing the cut at the Joburg Open and going T57th at the South African Open. However, his game matches up great here at Leopard Creek. He finished the last DP World Tour season 20th in SG: APP, 31st in scrambling, 42nd in putts per greens in regulation, 45th in SG: OTT, 53rd in GIR%, 54th in par four average scoring and 84th in SG: PUTT. In other words, he’s average or above average in each of the seven statistical categories I took into consideration this week. I’m playing a unit on him this week.