Out of the Rough: The SDC Championship (2023)
After a week in Kenya, the DP World Tour heads south for the SDC Championship.
St. Francis Links in Eastern Cape, South Africa is hosting its first ever DP World Tour event.
This event is co-sanctioned with the Sunshine Tour. St. Francis Links is in the western section of Eastern Cape and is a venue familiar to the locals.
The course is a links style 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 a year ago 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 routinely find themselves looking to save par from the rough or around the green.
Seven of the last nine winners of the event have ranked first, first, ninth, second, sixth, 12th and third 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.
Finding the greens will also be important this week. Burmester ranked fourth in greens in regulation percentage in his victory. J.J. Senegal won in 2013 and ranked seventh in the same statistical category.
Although this is the inaugural event 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 two editions of the South African PGA Championship.
South Africans have a great record here. There will be a strong showing for South Africa in this week’s field with names such as Thriston Lawrence, Shaun Norris, Wilco Nienaber, Zander Lombard, Brandon Stone, Darren Fichardt and Oliver Bekker to name a few.
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.
As for weather this week, temperatures are set to range from the mid-70’s to low 80’s. Precipitation will not be a concern as chances peak at 20-percent. As previously mentioned, winds will be in play. Thursday is calling for 22 miles-per-hour. Friday through Sunday is calling for 15-to-18 miles-per-hour winds.
Important statistics to consider this week include:
Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)
Greens in Regulation Percentage (GIR%)
Putts Per Round (PPR)
Average Par 5 Scoring
Strokes Gained: Around the Green (SG: ATG)
Adrian Otaegui (+3000)
Per my model this week, Adrian Otaegui comes in as the favorite. I played Otaegui a week ago in Kenyan where he finished T30th at eight-under. I’m back in on him as he models quite a bit higher than second place. He’s currently fourth on the DP World Tour in SG: APP, seventh in scrambling, ninth in both driving accuracy and SG: ATG, 20th in average par five scoring, 23rd in PPR and 69th in GIR%. He’s also the highest ranked golfer in the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) in the field at 83rd. In eight events on the season, Otaegui has made the cut in all of them. His season has been highlighted by a second place finish at the Alfred Dunhill Championship back in December. He’s yet to take that next step in both the season and calendar year. This week could be the week however.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello (+5000)
I love these odds. At +5000 (or 50/1) you’re getting a heck of a golfer who is playing some great golf on the European Tour. He’s currently second in scrambling and we’ve already talked about how important that stat is here. He’s also 11th in average par five scoring, 12th in SG: ATG, 15th in PPR, 60th in SG: APP and 64th in GIR%. His score in our model this week is hindered by his 116th placement in driving accuracy. He’ll have to dial in the driver this week on this links style course to have a chance on Sunday but being an elite scrambler will help with that. Last week in Kenya he placed T20th at -10. On the season he’s gone T5th at the Thailand Classic, T10th at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and T13th at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship. That’s a lot to like for someone at +5000.
Joost Luiten (+3500)
The Dutchman did not compete last week at the Magical Kenya Open. The last time we saw him on the DP World Tour was at the Hero Indian Open in late February where he placed third. He actually had back-to-back third place finishes on Tour leading into this week’s event as he went T3rd at the Thailand Classic a week before the Hero Indian Open. Prior to that his best finish on the season was T13th at the Alfred Dunhill Championship back in December. Statistically speaking he’s currently 14th on Tour in scrambling, 20th in both PPR and driving accuracy, 46th in average par five scoring, 47th in GIR%, 49th in SG: ATG and 98th in SG: APP. We would like to see his approach numbers better than they are. The rest of his game should help elevate him. With back-to-back third place finishes heading into this event, he’s one of the hottest golfers on Tour.
Daniel Brown (+13000)
My longshot of the week just so happens to be England’s own Daniel Brown. Brown is a putting specialist who too is very accurate off the tee. He hasn’t been extraordinary on the season but he’s put together some quality tournaments, most notably a fifth place finish at the Investec South African Open Championship. His best finish of the season just so happened to take place in the same county as this week’s event. Brown is currently second on the Tour in PPR, 15th in driving accuracy, 27th in scrambling, 50th in SG: ATG, 74th in average par five scoring, 101st in SG: APP and 121st in GIR%. He’s an elite putter who too is well above average in scrambling. You add in the accuracy off the tee with a competent around the green game, you may have a recipe for success this week.