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  • Writer's pictureNate (@WeKnowFantasy)

Out of the Rough: SDC Championship (2024)

As the International Swing of the DP World Tour winds down, it makes the first of two stops in South Africa for this week’s SDC Championship.

This week’s host, the St. Francis Links in Eastern Cape, South Africa will be played for just the second time on the DP World tour. Last year’s installment of this event was the first.

The SDC Championship is a co-sanctioned event between the DP World Tour and the Sunshine Tour.

Although St. Francis is a new face to the DP World Tour, it has hosted many events on the Sunshine Tour so it is a familiar track to the locals.

The Field

This week’s field is lacking many of the Tour’s big names as they remain idle with the upcoming Asian Swing looming and the inclusion of multiple major events (The Masters and PGA Championship.)

The field is headlined by South African Zander Lombard who rides his hot start to the season into this week in hopes of claiming his first DP World title on home soil.

He’s joined by many South African as the likes of Thriston Lawrence, Hennie du Plessis, Jayden Schaper, Louis de Jager, Brandon Stone and many others look to join Lombard in hopes of winning on home soil.

Other notable names in this week’s field include Rikuya Hoshino, Ewen Ferguson, Tom Mckibbin, Jordan Smith, Antoine Rozner, Keita Nakajima, Joost Luiten and Niklas Norgaard.

Matthew Baldwin won the inaugural playing of the SDC Championship last year. In his 200th DP World Tour event, he used the SDC Championship as his maiden victory. He too will be teeing it up this week.

He did so by reeling in Norway’s Kristian Krogh Johannessen in a weather impacted event.

The Course

St. Francis is a links style course that plays as a par 72 at 7,192 yards.

St. Francis Links was designed by Jack Nicklaus and was opened in 2006. In 2007 the course was voted Best New Course in South Africa and annually ranks as one of the top ten courses in the country.

It plays as a traditional links course with four par-fives and four par-threes. The par-four fifth, eighth and 12th holes are described as risk-reward holes.

The tees are not artificially perched above the playing areas and the holes follow the terrain. This provides a need for a “sighter” to get the feel of the land.

Taking advantage of the par-fives will be crucial this week. Looking at the past, although not a DP World Tour event, George Coetzee won this event in 2022 and shot 12-under on the par fives in route to a 15-under victory.

Scrambling has been the key stat to success here in the past. With the links layout, finding the fairways is often not the case. Golfers will rutinley find themselves looking to save par from the rough or around the green.

Eight of the last ten winners of the event have ranked first, first, ninth, second, sixth, 12th, third and Baldwin 13th in scrambling on the event to put into perspective how important the stat is this week.

Putting also will be of the utmost importance this week. The worst any winner of this event has ranked in putts-per-round is 21st back in 2018. Dean Burmester in 2021 is the only other victor to rank outside the top ten in putts-per-round. Baldwin ranked second in putting average a year ago as well.

Although this is the second time playing on the DP World Tour, St. Francis Links is a familiar venue for the South African contingent. It hosted 11 events on the Sunshine Tour, including the last three editions of the South African PGA Championship.

Wind too will almost certainly be a factor. Having experience and the knowledge to play in windy conditions will go a long way this week.

The Weather

As of the time of writing this, winds will be at the lowest on Friday and Sunday at 14 miles-per-hour and peaking at 16 miles-per-hour on both Thursday and Saturday. Temperatures will begin at 81 degrees for Thursday and Friday before falling to 76-degrees on Saturday and 72-degrees on Sunday. Sunday also calls for a 25-percent chance of precipitation. In all, winds will be a factor this week and will have to be dealt with on every shot.

Key Stats

  • Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)

  • Scrambling

  • Greens in Regulation Percentage (GIR%)

  • Strokes Gained: Putting (SG: PUTT)

  • Par Five Average Scoring

  • Strokes Gained: Off the Tee (SG: OTT) / Driving Accuracy

  • Strokes Gained: Around the Green (SG: ATG)

Betting Card

Zander Lombard (+1400)

I know this selection is pretty “chalk” as he’s the odds-on-favorite to win but I couldn’t leave Lombard off my card. If you’ve been following me, I’ve been playing him a lot recently and with that, I have to play him in his home country. He’s currently 14th on Tour in scrambling, 16th in SG: PUTT, 18th in SG: OTT, 22nd in par five average scoring, 23rd in GIR%, 29th in SG: ATG, 36th in SG: APP and 29th in SG: ATG. In other words, he’s extremely well rounded. He did play in this event a year ago to the tune of a T41st finish. He last made an appearance on the Challenge Tour at the Dimension Data Pro-Am, also in South Africa, where he placed T6th. On the DP World Tour his worst finish through eight events on the season has been T25th. In his last outing he placed T16th at the Qatar Masters and prior to that he placed T2nd at the Bahrain Championship. He also placed T13th at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship, T16th at the Hero Dubai Classic and T6th at the Dubai Invitational. Earlier this season in South Africa he placed T4th at the Joburg Open, T12th at the South African Championship and T25th at the Alfred Dunhill Championship. I believe +1400 is a fair price for the favorite and I’m playing two units on him.

Joost Luiten (+2800)

This course requires accuracy off the tee, strong iron play and a competent scrambling approach. Luiten checks those boxes. He’s currently third on Tour in scrambling, 19th in SG: OTT, 33rd in driving accuracy, 41st in SG: APP, 42nd in GIR%, 57th in par five average scoring, 83rd in SG: ATG and 92nd in SG: PUTT. It’s the around the green work and the putter that gets Luiten in trouble but the rest of his game can elevate him this week. He played here a year ago where he placed T9th. Luiten hasn’t played a ton this season but in four tournaments he has gone T33rd at the Qatar Masters, T21st at the Hero Dubai Classic and T14th at the Dubai Invitational. I’m playing a unit on him.

Jayden Schaper (+4000)

Continuing with the South African theme, my next play is Schaper. He did miss the cut here a year ago but earlier this year in South Africa was on a tear. He placed T9th at the Joburg Open, T5th at the South African Open and T7th at the Alfred Dunhill Championship. He also placed sixth at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, T23rd at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship and T24th at the Qatar Masters. He’s currently 17th on Tour in SG: PUTT, 22nd in scrambling, 41st in GIR%, 46th in driving accuracy, 47th in SG: APP, 53rd in par five average scoring, 59th in SG: OTT and 65th in SG: ATG. In other words, he’s above average in each of the eight statistical categories I took into consideration this week. I’m playing a unit on him.

Manuel Elvira (+5500)

Elvira is fresh off his best performance of the season with a fourth place finish last week at the Magical Kenya Open. He also placed T12th earlier this year at the Joburg Open and T32nd at the Alfred Dunhill Championship. He will be making his debut at this event and course on the DP World Tour this week. He’s currently sixth on Tour in GIR%, 14th in SG: OTT, 38th in SG: PUTT, 49th in driving accuracy, 52nd in SG: ATG, 60th in scrambling and 99th in par five average scoring. Now he is 120th in SG: APP which is concerning but as last week proves, he can spike with his irons, which he’ll need this week. I’m playing a unit on him.

Thomas Aiken (+11000)

I’m rounding out my card with my favorite DP World Tour longshot and he just so happens to be South African. Aiken played here a year ago where he placed T9th. He’s fresh off a T23rd at last week’s Magical Kenya Open. He also placed T7th at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open and T17th at the Joburg Open on the season. He’s currently second on Tour in driving accuracy, seventh in SG: APP, 20th in GIR%, 26th in SG: ATG, 32nd in scrambling, 54th in par five average scoring and 83rd in SG: PUTT. His downfall is a 117th placement in SG: OTT but that is due to his lack of distance off the tee. This course does require accuracy so that’s why he’s here on my card. I’m playing a unit on him as well.

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