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PREVIEW: 2024 DP World Tour – SDC Championship

This week the the DP World Tour moves from Nairobi to South Africa for the first of two events hosted in the Rainbow Nation: the SDC Championship. Damien Kayat previews.

Zander Lombard - DP World Tour

This week the the DP World Tour moves from Nairobi to South Africa for the first of two events hosted in the Rainbow Nation: the SDC Championship. Damien Kayat previews.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

2024 DP World Tour/Sunshine Tour
SDC Championship
St Francis Golf Links, St Francis Bay
29 February – 3 March

Darius van Driel won his maiden title in some style last week, going wire-to-wire to claim the Magical Kenya Open. Things got quite congested on Sunday afternoon but the Dutchman held his nerve, ultimately winning by two shots over Nacho Elvira and Joe Dean.

Qualifying school graduate Joe Dean was quite the fairytale story in Kenya (he was working as a delivery driver just last week). That’s one of the upsides of these less prestigious events: there’s more room for Rocky-esque heroics.

SDC Championship

This week the tour moves from Nairobi to South Africa for the first of two events hosted in the Rainbow Nation: the SDC Championship. Co-sanctioned by the DP World Tour and Sunshine Tour, this will be just the second renewal of the SDC Championship.

And we will once again be heading to the picturesque St Francis Links. Its designer- Jack Nicklaus- rates it highly, stating in a December 2006 interview that it may be the best golf course he has ever seen (an abundance of modesty there).

St Francis Golf Links

Designed by the ‘Golden Bear’ and opened in 2006, St Francis Golf Links is a visual feast. Located on a hill overlooking St Francis Bay, this course will pose plenty of challenges for the professionals. Matthew Baldwin ran away with last year’s title, finishing with an impressive score of 18-under-par.

But second place could only muster 11-under (though the event was severely weather-affected). This layout has hosted many events on the Sunshine Tour and will be quite familiar to the South African players. This is a classical links layout that will reward those able to negotiate the idiosyncratic contouring of this course.

Several risk-reward par 4s could prove decisive this week. As with many links layouts, scrambling has proved to be a vital stat to consider at St Francis. Players will need to get up-and-down from various extreme runoff areas. Last year I stated that power might be key to success here (the 7,200-yard layout is played at sea-level).

But statistics suggested that driving accuracy was more important than distance last year. I personally think the inclement weather skewed those stats and power should prove vital this week.

The Contenders

This is once again a pretty lacklustre field. Zander Lombard and Thriston Lawrence have both been in pretty good nick of late and they make logical favourites in this depleted field. Defending champion Matthew Baldwin has struggled since picking up that maiden win and he will be hoping to draw on some positive juju this week.

Several of last year’s nearly-rans are also in the field. Ewen Ferguson has started to look quite threatening of late while Adri Arnaus could do with a little pick-me-up this week. Also, look for strong links operators such as Richie Ramsay.

This is really anybody’s title in what is perhaps the most unremarkable portion of the entire DP World Tour schedule (and that’s coming from a South African).

Past Winner

2023: Matthew Baldwin (-18)

To Win Outright:

Zander Lombard 14/1 | Thriston Lawrence 16/1 | Rikuya Hoshino 16/1 | Tom McKibben 16/1 | Ewen Ferguson 18/1

Value Bets

Niklas Norgaard – To Win 30/1 | To Place 8/1

Norgaard hits the ball an absolute mile and I think that will be a key factor in this year’s edition of the SDC Championship. Matthew Baldwin averaged 331 yards off the tee last year and he went on to win by seven shots. Norgaard has also shown that he can handle the wind of a coastal event (he finished eigtth at the Bahrain Masters earlier this month). He also finished sevnth at the Alfred Dunhill Links back in 2022, showcasing his ability to handle links conditions. He was 23rd on debut last year despite being hampered by an opening round of 76.

Richie Ramsay- To Win 55/1 | To Place 8/1

This is the ultimate ‘horses for courses’ pick. Richie Ramsay has proven to be an excellent coastal links player over the years. This is a list of all the costal links where he has secured a top 10: Port Stewart, Royal Portrush, Royal Count Down, Murcar Links, Castle Stuart and Kennemer. He also has three top 10s at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. He was T22 at the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale and he has also tasted victory at Hillside. He was in the top 10 here at the halfway point last year but he faded badly over the weekend. I just think his links experience gives him a distinct advantage in this field.

The Man to Beat- Ewen Ferguson- To Win 18/1 | To Place 3/1

Sure, Scotsman Ewen Ferguson hasn’t quite been able to build on the 2022 campaign that saw him win two DP World Tour titles (the ISPS Handa World Invitational and the Qatar Masters). But Ferguson has started to find a bit of consistency of late, finishing in the top 11 in three of his five events this year. He also finished 3rd here last season and I think he is head and shoulders above most of the participants in this field.

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