We’re not quite done with 2012, but golf punters are already sizing up their second tournament of the 2013 Race to Dubai.
The fourteenth renewal of the Alfred Dunhill Championship tees off on Thursday, concluding the South African double-header which started with last week’s Nelson Mandela Championship.
The setting for this €1.5m event is the Leopard Creek Country Club. The wildlife in the adjacent Kruger National Park can get a little close, but the main problem facing the players will be the abundance of tricky water features, including the nearby Crocodile River, which borders the thirteenth green.
Rain is forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday, so the greens and fairways may be a little spongy, but the course is a relatively short 6631 metres, so distance from the tee is not that important. Driving accuracy and reliable putting are what counts at this venue and avoiding crocodiles.
This may be a European Tour event, but as with the Nelson Mandela Championship last week, the betting is dominated by the top South-African players and that’s where punters should concentrate their efforts.
Top of the ante-post pile is Charl Schwartzel. The former Masters champion hadn’t opened his trophy cabinet in 20 months, but blew away the cobwebs last week when he landed the Thailand Golf Championship by a margin of 11 shots. His record in this event is strong. He won at Leopard’s Creek in 2005, has finished runner-up four times since, and even at 4/1, he’s an attractive betting proposition.
Louis Oosthuizen is the highest ranked player in the field and you can’t ignore his form (four top six finishes in a row) or the fact that seven of his ten professional victories have come in South Africa. But he’s missed the cut in this event on his last five starts, so can be passed over at 6/1.
Similarly other top South-Africans, Branden Grace and George Coetzee are available at 18/1 at 16/1 respectively. Grace played well in Dubai but the remainder of his recent form has been poor and he’s missed the cut three times at Leopard’s Creek. Coetzee is battling to retain his top 50 world ranking, but this course doesn’t really play to his big-hitting strengths and there’s a question mark over his form after he missed the cut last week.
Instead, punters should concentrate on a couple of South-Africans slightly lower down the ante-post list. Jaco van Zyl could not be in better form at the moment, having finished runner up in the Cape Town Open and hit a stunning final round at the Nelson Mandela last week. He was third in this tournament last year and he has to be an each-way option at 25/1.
Thomas Aiken is also worth a punt at 20/1. Accuracy is the key at Leopard’s Creek and Aiken’s greens-in-regulation stats are impressive. He’s made the top five in this event twice in the last five years and set the course record there in 2008.