Damien Kayat previews the 2022 edition of the DP World Tour’s Alfred Dunhill Championship taking place at Leopard Creek Country Club.
2022 DP World Tour/Sunshine Tour
Alfred Dunhill Championship
Leopard Creek Country Club, Malelane, South Africa
Thriston Lawrence held on for dear life during a sweltering final day at last week’s SA Open. A charging Clement Sordet came within a whisker of forcing a playoff.
But Lawrence’s victory was his third DP World Tour title in the space of a year and cements him as one of the preeminent South African players. The DP World Tour concludes its three-week collaboration with the Sunshine Tour with this year’s edition of the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
This will be the penultimate event of this year’s schedule, with next week’s trip to beautiful Mauritius the last official event of 2022. And this week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship has certainly attracted the best assortment of SA golfers seen during this SA swing.
The Alfred Dunhill Championship debuted in 2000 (though the first six editions were held at Houghton Golf Club). The stunning Leopard Creek Country Club took over hosting duties in 2005 and every edition since has been held there.
But there was no event in 2017 due to renovations while last year’s event was cancelled due to Covid travel restrictions.
Leopard Creek Country Club
Leopard Creek Country Club is our second consecutive Gary Player design. Opened in 1996, it is a stunning course that is set on the edge of the iconic Kruger National Park.
The par 72 isn’t overly long at 7,249 yards. It underwent an extensive renovation in 2017, with the course re-turfed, bunkers repositioned and many landing areas widened.
The rough and fairways were changed from kikuyu to Bermuda. This course is renowned for its tight, tree-lined fairways. Players need to find the right part of the fairways due to possible tree impediments.
But the new surfaces should be firmer and will bring more of the strategically placed bunkers into play. Basically, players need to play well from tee-to-green.
Also, the greens around Leopard Creek can be somewhat tricky, with devilish runoff areas that test the player’s scrambling abilities. They actually remind me slightly of Augusta (little surprise that Charl Schwartzel has been victorious at both venues).
Thriston Lawrence has turned into a bit of a specialist in these co-sanctioned events and I’m sure that he will be feeling confident of making it back-to-back victories this week.
But he will have his hands full with a really accomplished SA line-up. A host of high-profile LIV rebels will be in attendance this week. I have noticed that they don’t face anywhere near the same level of scrutiny here as their European counterparts face in Europe.
Louis Oosthuizen has endured a poor year and has probably felt the effects of all those near misses in recent Major Championships. Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace are former Leopard Creek champs who must be respected.
In fact, Schwartzel is a real Leopard Creek aficionado (he has three victories to his name here). And let’s not forget defending champion Christiaan Bezuidenhout (who heads the markets at this point).
And for the nostalgia, you have perhaps the most beloved figure in SA golf: Ernie Els. Expect the galleries to absolutely relish watching the ‘Big Easy’ in action.
2021: event cancelled
2020: Christiaan Bezuidenhout (-14)
2019: Pablo Larrazabal (-8)
2018: David Lipsky (-14)
2017: event cancelled
2016: Brandon Stone (-21)
2015: Charl Schwartzel (-15)
To Win Outright:
Christiaan Bezuidenhout 9/1 | Louis Oosthuizen 12/1 | Charl Schwartzel 14/1 | Dean Burmester 16/1 | Thriston Lawrence 18/1
Adrian Otaegui- To Win 33/1 | To Place 7/1
This one is really based on his magnificent win at Valderrama earlier this year. Otaegui is a tee-to-green beast who can really get it out there. But his six-shot victory at the notoriously tight Spanish course should bode well for this week. He has been in decent- if unspectacular- form of late. He finished 18th at the Nedbank (he was sitting in seventh going into Sunday). He then finished 16th at the DP World Tour Championship before a 23rd at the Joburg Open. Also, there have been four Spanish winners here since 2006. This is obviously due in part to the similarities between the climates. I think Otaegui could thrive this week.
Jayden Schaper- To Win 33/1 | To Place 7/1
This will be the second time that I will have backed Schaper in recent weeks. A former amateur sensation, rising star Schaper should have a fantastic chance this week. He is fresh off decent back-to-back performances (18th at the Joburg Open and 9th at the SA Open). But crucially, young Schaper was one of four players tied for 2nd when this event was last played two years back.
The Man to Beat- Charl Schwartzel- To Win 14/1 | To Place 3/1
This is just a perfect amalgamation of horses-for-courses and a humdrum field. As I noted earlier, Schwartzel has won out here three times. He has won this event four times (winning the 2004 event at Houghton). He has also finished runner-up here four times. Granted, the last time he won was in 2015- prior to the significant renovations. But I still think his game is perfectly suited to this layout- as it is to Augusta. He picked up a nice top 10 last week and he was in excellent form during the LIV Golf Tour.