We are staying in South Africa again this week on the European Tour, this time for the Alfred Dunhill Championship, the 2nd event in this new season.
Last week, many would of been surprised to see Charl Schwartzel fall at the final hurdle, and most probably wouldn’t of predicted that Morten Orum Madsen would walk out of Johannesburg with the victory. To be fair, although he shot a very respectable -16, finishing in a tie for 4th, Schwartzel never really looked his best last week, and will try to put that right this time around. Once again he leads the market, this time coming in at a best price of 7/2. He has won this event three times since 2004, including a 12-stroke victory last year, and also three runners up finishes to add to that, so he is the obvious favourite. He was however favourite to win last week and couldn’t get the job done, so at 7/2 I’m happy to leave him alone. I’m not gonna advise you against him however, and he may be worth putting in a double with Adam Scott if you fancy him in the Australian Masters.
The field is stronger this week, than last, with both George Coetzee and Richard Sterne flying back home for this event, as well as big profile players such as Brendon De Jonge and Ross Fisher, joining those at the head of the betting.
Leapord Creek CC is the host course this week, and at 7,326 yards, this par 72 course shouldn’t be too long for any player in the field, but with a driveable par-4 and a some par 5s to negotiate longer hitters might have a slight advantage if driving the ball straight as well as long. Much like last week, scoring will be low, and really the leaders are going to have to separate themselves from the pack, with good all-round play. We often see a player go on the run with the putter, and although there’s no stand out statistic when looking at past winners of this event, Charl Schwartzel led the field in both Putts per GIR and Putts per Round last year, en-route to a -24 score, twelve clear of next best Kristoffer Broberg.
Thanks to Schwartzel being in the field, we once again get to explore different avenues, with inflated prices on offer, and I’m happy to try and exploit that, taking on Schwartzel in the process. It would of really dented Schwartzel’s confidence to not close out the victory last week, and had he of won, I wouldn’t of liked to take him on this week. This is his favourite course though, you can see that, with course form of 1-2-2-14-mc-2-1-1, but at 7/2 top price (SkyBet) I really cannot have him on my mind. I’m happy to look elsewhere, with plenty of value on offer.
With all this is mind, and plenty of course form to go by, here are four players who can challenge Schwartzel, here at Leopard Creek.
Garth Mulroy 28/1 (Bet365, PaddyPower, StanJames) 2pts e/w: Mulroy is a previous winner of this event, and with that in mind he straight away looks a decent price, in this sort of field. He won here, back in 2011, taking advantage of the fact that Schwartzel of all people wasn’t in the field.
As we know, it’s difficult for a player to defend their title, with more pressure than ever put on you to perform well, but Mulroy managed to keep it together last year, finishing in a tie for 3rd, one behind runner-up Broberg.
With back-to-back good finishes, it makes picking a player a lot easier, and Mulroy is in that mould this week. Not only does he have these two good finishes, but 12th in 2009 and 21st in 2008, suggests he’s more than comfortable around Leopard Creek, thus making him tough to leave out.
With current form as well to boot, Mulroy looks one of the top options in the field this week. He finished 10th last week in the South African Open Championship, with a fine performance off the tee, finishing 7th in Driving Accuracy, and decent performances over the week on the greens. He finished 9th in Putts per GIR and 18th in Putts per Round, so if he can improve slightly on that, on a course he’s more than familiar with, he’s going to be in for another really great week.
At 28/1 it’s hard to get stuck into a player with only 1 European Tour victory, however much like Hennie Otto last week, Mulroy shows all the signs of putting in another solid effort this week, and I wouldn’t rule out Mulroy adding to this victory total, and indeed another Alfred Dunhill Championship.
Jbe Kruger 45/1 (General) 1.5pts e/w: After opening, and closing with rounds of 65 last week, Kruger managed to finish in a tie for 2nd, behind eventual winner Madsen, and he will take great confidence from that going into this week. This was a great finish from Kruger and proves that, when the game is there for him he is a steady player, and can compete.
He won his first European Tour event, last February, at the Avantha Masters, so he can get over the line, and South Africa would be a great place for him to add to that. He’s consistent in Sunshine Tour events, and therefore will relish the opportunity to peg it up again in South Africa.
The best part about him finishing like he did last week, for me, is how he did that following 11 straight missed cuts. This in my opinion shows a great mentality, considering he’s been plugging away with little success for so long, and then comes out the woodwork like this. Now that he’s been back in the mix, I fully expect him to keep that up, on a course that he’s enjoyed relative success at in recent years.
Kruger has played this event four times, between 2007-2011, missing the cut on the first two occasions, then redeeming himself with two top-10 finishes. 9th in 2010 and 10th in 2011 suggests to me that he’s managed to work the course out, and with the extra confidence from last week behind him, he should be able to better that once again.
His price for me, was tempting enough, and I am more than happy to have him on side this week, in the hope that he carries on from last week’s success.
Andy Sullivan 80/1 (General) 1pt e/w: Andy Sullivan is not a player I pick very often, and that’s because he is one of the most difficult players to work out. He is has never won an event before, and he doesn’t seem to get a consistent run together, but this week might be the start of a good run for Sullivan
Last week, Sullivan managed to finish T12, after finishing 47th on his first try in 2012, a huge improvement, and it’s this that gives me big hope for him this week. He finished T3 last year, after two average rounds on the Thursday (73) and Friday (71), then finishing strongly over the weekend with rounds of 64 and 69. He proved once again last week that can shoot low, with a pair of 68s on Friday and Saturday and if he can get off to a better start this week, I see no reason why he can’t compete.
Finishing 3rd on your first attempt at any course is good going, and when he did that here last year, he had finished T91 the week before, missing the cut, very different to this time around. I’m hoping that his T12 last week will give him the confidence that he needs to play well at this course for a 2nd year in a row, making Leopard Creek a happy stomping ground for him in the future.
The bookies are struggling to make their make their mind up this week on Sullivan, with most going at 80/1, but some going around the 50/1 mark, which again backs up my point that he’s hard to predict. The upside of Sullivan was enough to tempt me in, and if he can play at the level he did last year, and even improve, he should give us a run at 80/1.
Warren Abery 200/1 (SpreadEx, StanJames) 1pt e/w: Abery played some really nice golf last week at the South African Open Championship, and was rewarded with a 2nd consecutive 9th place finish. This proves Abery is finding some consistency in his game, and now his last four events read, 9-9-20-6, impressive for a 200/1 shot.
Abery is no stranger to winning, winning eight Sunshine Tour events, but getting a win in one of these co-sanctioned events would really raise his profile, and I’m sure it’s a target Abery has set himself for quite some time.
If you look at his course form between 2006-2012 you would be forgiven for being put off him this week, and think that 200/1 isn’t actually a good price, but I’m happy to look past that. In 2004 and 2005, Abery had back-to-back 3rd place finishes, and he may just take confidence from that, all these years on, now that he’s playing well.
Three rounds of 68 last week prove he’s really swinging well, and if he can get hot with the putter, he may just pop up once again this week. At 200/1 I’m happy to take a chance on him keeping his good form up, and hopefully he can go even better here at Leopard Creek.
Total Points Staked this week: 11
Profit/Loss for 2013: +76.25
We were so close to another winner last week, when Hennie Otto was four clear, with four hole to play, however it wasn’t too be, and we add another runner-up to the ever growing total this season. It was though, another profitable week, and if we can find another winner before 2013 is out,we can really count this as a good season. We have managed a steady amount of profit so far this year, however we will always strive for better, and hopefully we get a win this week, at the second time of trying in this 2014 season.