Alfred Dunhill Championship 2023 Tips: 200/1 shot leads five for Leopard Creek

 | December 05 | 

17 mins read

Jamie DP World

The penultimate event of the year on the DP World Tour sees the players teeing it up in one of the most unique and memorable settings in the game, as they make their way to Leopard Creek Country Club in South Africa, for the Alfred Dunhill Championship. As always, Jamie is back with his preview and predictions. 

Alfred Dunhill Championship Tips

  • 3 pts Christian Bezuidenhout each way (1/5 - 8 Places) - 14/1 
  • 1.5 pts Hennie Du Plessis each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 35/1 
  • 1 pt Jeff Winther each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 55/1 
  • 1 pt Gavin Green each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 60/1
  • 1 pt Alexander Knappe each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 200/1 

TOURNAMENT HISTORY

The Alfred Dunhill Championship debuted in 2000 as a co-sanctioned event between the DP World Tour and Sunshine Tour - a status it has maintained.

It has taken place in all but two years since 2000, having been cancelled in 2017 due to course renovations and in 2021 because of travel restrictions brought about by the pandemic.

After the first six editions were held at Houghton Golf Club – which is now host of the Joburg Open – the tournament moved here to Leopard Creek CC in 2005.

In its early years, the event was the stage of first professional victories for the future major-winning trio of: Adam Scott (2001), Justin Rose (2002) and Charl Schwartzel (2004).

Schwartzel has since gone on to become the most successful player in the history of the event with four titles, recording further wins in 2012, 2013 and 2015. Spain’s Pablo Martin is the only other player to win multiple Alfred Dunhill titles; winning back-to-back renewals in 2009 and 2010.

As you’d expect the home contingent have enjoyed great success here, with additional winners in the shape of: Ernie Els (2005), Richard Sterne (2008), Garth Mulroy (2011), Branden Grace (2014), Brandon Stone (2016) and Christiaan Bezuidenhout (2020).

Ockie Strydom added his name to this list as a surprise winner of last year’s event, seeing off Adrian Otaegui by two strokes. He is currently entered to defend his title this week but having withdrawn pre-event in the last two weeks, it remains to be seen if he tees it up at Leopard Creek.

THE COURSE

Another week and it’s another Gary Player design on the DP World Tour. Leopard Creek originally opened in 1996, though underwent an extensive renovation process in 2017, which included the widening of some fairways and re-positioning of bunkers to make them more strategic off-the-tee. In addition, kikuyu grass was completely removed from the course, replaced with bermudagrass throughout.

The course changes were designed to toughen the course up as scoring was getting increasingly easier. This seems to have worked as the -19.33 average winning score in the six events prior to the course changes has been replaced by a -13.5 average winning score in the four renewals since.

Leopard Creek is very much at one with its natural surrounds. It is bordered by bushveld and sits next to the world-famous Kruger National Park, separated only by the Crocodile River, which is typically bustling with wildlife. Expect regular shots of hippos, elephants et al throughout the week, especially on the spectacular 13th hole, where the river sits directly to the left of the green.

The tree-lined parkland course is a par 72, measuring 7249 yards; made up of ten par 4s (311-489 yards), four par 5s (552-580 yards) and four par 3s (155-205 yards).

The course is a story of two nines. The front nine is much flatter and less interesting than the hillier, more undulating back, where there are frequent elevation changes; water comes more into play and three par 5s over the last six holes can set up a thrilling finish.

The potentially fiery fairways are about average in width, though are made to feel tighter by smart strategic bunkering on almost every hole. Meaning they rank as some of the tougher to find on the DPWT.

Strong bunkering is also one of the key features of defence around the slick putting surfaces, which are small-average in size overall and have some steep drop offs if players fail to control distances well with their approaches, particularly with some of the elevation changes over the back nine. Missing them will spell trouble as Leopard Creek ranks as the toughest scrambling course on tour in recent years.

There are plenty of good scoring opportunities here to counter the challenges, though most come with an element of risk/reward. Aside from the four gettable par 5s there are two drivable par 4s, including the 311-yard 6th and whilst the par 3s don’t look too intimidating on paper, three are well protected by water and the other – the 155-yard 12th – has one of the smallest and most shallow greens on the course.

As mentioned, the finish here is particularly exciting, with three par 5s over the final six and five of the eight water holes also coming over this stretch.

It culminates in the 552-yard par 5 18th, where players must first navigate one of the narrowest fairways on the course and then face the decision of whether to go for the small island green in two. We can see anything from eagle to double bogey+ here; it’s a real risk/reward hole that can make or break your week.

THE STATS

Key Stats:

  • SG: Approach
  • SG: Putting
  • SG: Off-the-Tee or Driving Accuracy
  • Par 5 Scoring

Whilst data from these end-of-year events aren’t always the most reliable due to the way it is collected, they can still give us somewhat of an idea of what works well at Leopard Creek. They paint a picture of approach play and putting being the keys to success here, something I expect to be more prevalent this year, with rain and some cooler weather predicted before and during the tournament likely to take a bit of heat out of the course.

We don’t have any stats available for last year’s winner, Ockie Strydom, though 2nd and 3rd-place finishers, Adrian Otaegui and Laurie Canter both excelled with their approach play. As did Oliver Bekker in T4; whilst fellow 4th-place finisher, Aaron Cockerill, was at his best on the greens.

2020 winner, Christiaan Bezuidenhout looked excellent in both of these areas, particular with the putter; of the four runners-up to him there, Jadyen Schaper and Sean Crocker produced quality approach play, Adrian Meronk was strong on the greens and Richard Bland looked good in both areas.

Pablo Larrazabal produced an elite approach performance to win in 2019. It was the same story for Joel Sjoholm in 2nd, along with Branden Grace and Will Besseling in 3rd; Charl Schwartzel – also 3rd – putted well.

David Lipsky is another player who looked good both in approach and putting when winning in 2018 and of his nearest challengers, all produced their best performances in these areas.

Whilst not as standout as the irons and putter, few of the most recent contenders here have been able to do so without driving well into these punishing fairways. Whether that be through controlled power-driving or hitting fairways for fun.

In addition, with three par 5s coming from 13-18, I feel those who gain the most from these holes will give themselves the best chance of lifting the trophy on Sunday.

CORRELATING EVENTS (COURSE)

Nedbank Challenge/2020 South African Open (Gary Player Country Club)

Gary Player has designed several courses that have been used on the DP World Tour but two appeal more as a comp for this week than others, starting with Gary Player Country Club - host of the Nedbank Challenge and 2020 South African Open.

This tree-lined course is another demanding tee-to-green challenge and possesses similar averages to Leopard Creek in scrambling difficulty and bogey avoidance percentages.

Notable Correlating Form:

Christiaan Bezuidenhout:

Alfred Dunhill (1st) / S.A Open (1st)

Branden Grace:

Alfred Dunhill (1st, 3rd, 4th) / Nedbank (1st, 3rd, 4th)

Scott Jamieson:

Alfred Dunhill (3rd, 3rd, 4th) / Nedbank (2nd)

Andy Sullivan:

Alfred Dunhill (3rd) / Nedbank (3rd)

Ross Fisher:

Alfred Dunhill (3rd) / Nedbank (2nd, 4th)

 

Indian Open 2017+ (DLF Golf and Country Club)

DLF Golf and Country Club is another tree-lined Gary Player design of a similar length to Leopard Creek. There are regular elevation changes and it provides a comparable ball-striking test.

Notable Correlating Form:

Christiaan Bezuidenhout:

Alfred Dunhill (1st) / India (4th)

Pablo Larrazabal:

Alfred Dunhill (1st) / India (4th, 10th)

Ross Fisher:

Alfred Dunhill (3rd) / India (2nd)

Scott Jamieson:

Alfred Dunhill (3rd, 3rd, 4th) / India (3rd)

David Drysdale:

Alfred Dunhill (2nd, 6th, 8th) / India (3rd)

 

Dubai Desert Classic (Emirates Golf Club)

The well-bunkered Emirates Golf Club is a tree-lined course which offers up a ball-striking test akin to Leopard Creek. It offers as many form-ties with this week’s venue as any course I looked at.

Notable Correlating Form:

Alvaro Quiros:

Alfred Dunhill (1st) / Dubai (1st)

Christiaan Bezuidenhout:

Alfred Dunhill (1st) / Dubai (2nd)

Brandon Stone:

Alfred Dunhill (1st) / Dubai (2nd, 7th)

Richard Sterne:

Alfred Dunhill (1st) / Dubai (2nd)

Richard Bland:

Alfred Dunhill (2nd) / Dubai (2nd)

Andy Sullivan:

Alfred Dunhill (3rd) / Dubai (2nd, 4th)

Laurie Canter:

Alfred Dunhill (3rd) / Dubai (4th)

Adri Arnaus:

Alfred Dunhill (6th, 9th) / Dubai (3rd, 9th)

Thomas Aiken:

Alfred Dunhill (4th, 5th) / Dubai (7th, 9th)

Andalucia Masters (Real Club Valderrama)

Leopard Creek ranks only 2nd to Valderrama in bogeys made on tour and possessing similarly challenging tee-to-green tests, the two courses have built up some strong form-ties.

Notable Correlating Form:

Christiaan Bezuidenhout:

Alfred Dunhill (1st) / Valderrama (1st)

Alvaro Quiros:

Alfred Dunhill (1st) / Valderrama (2nd)

David Lipsky:

Alfred Dunhill (1st) / Valderrama (4th)

Adrian Otaegui:

Alfred Dunhill (2nd) / Valderrama (1st)

Adri Arnaus:

Alfred Dunhill (6th, 9th) / Valderrama (2nd)

Will Besseling:

Alfred Dunhill (3rd) / Valderrama (3rd)

Laurie Canter:

Alfred Dunhill (3rd) / Valderrama (4th)

 

Open de France (Le Golf National)

With its nervy, watery finish and being closely matched with Leopard Creek statistically – from GIR percentages to scrambling – the difficult Le Golf National looks a good comp for this week.

Notable Correlating Form:

John Bickerton:

Alfred Dunhill (1st) / France (1st)

Pablo Larrazabal:

Alfred Dunhill (1st) / France (1st)

Richard Sterne:

Alfred Dunhill (1st) / France (2nd)

Brandon Stone:

Alfred Dunhill (1st) / France (5th)

Andy Sullivan:

Alfred Dunhill (3rd) / France (5th, 6th)

 

THE WEATHER

There is some rain forecast to fall on Wednesday, which is set to continue into the opening round, accompanied by cooler temperatures. Friday is currently predicted to be the only warm and clear day, with storms possibly arriving on Saturday and Sunday.

With little in the way of strong winds, if and when the players get out on a receptive course, I’d expect scoring to be decent; more in-line with last year than the previous three renewals.

THE FIELD

Man of the moment, Dean Burmester is the top-ranked player in the field at #77 following his back-to-back wins in South Africa the last two weeks. He is one of just three players from inside the world’s top 100, joined by fellow South Africans, Thriston Lawrence at #84 and recent PGA Tour winner Erik Van Rooyen at #87.

Ockie Strydom is our defending champion and one of five former winners in the field, along with Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace, Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Brandon Stone.

2010 Open Championship winner, Louis Oosthuizen adds some extra star power to the field; world #1 amateur Christo Lamprecht makes another start and there are season debuts for Antoine Rozner, Guido Migliozzi, Jeff Winther and Jamie Donaldson.

SELECTIONS

Dean Burmester heads the betting at 5/1 as he goes in search of what would be a memorable trio of victories in South Africa.

He does have some strong form here and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him go close but it’s with past winner and second-favourite, Christiaan Bezuidenhout where the value lies at the top and he is this week’s main selection.

3 pts Christian Bezuidenhout each way(1/5 - 8 Places) - 14/1 

Though retaining his tour card on the PGA Tour - largely thanks to a 6th-place finish in the Sanderson Farms Championship four starts ago - last season was still underwhelming for the talented South African. However, in the last two weeks he has shown himself to still be a big danger when returning back to the calmer waters of the DP World Tour.

He finished 9th in the Joburg Open two weeks ago, firing four rounds in the 60s and followed that with a 17th in what would be a less suitable challenge at Blair Atholl in last week’s South African Open.

There has looked little wrong with his game on the PGA Tour this year despite his results not reaping much in the way of rewards. He’s gained strokes throughout the season in approach and his typically strong short-game has shone; whilst he’ll never rank high in the driving stats due to his lack of length, he’s been finding plenty of fairways.

Bezuidenhout’s game looks primed for this week, as he returns to a place where he won comfortably by four strokes in 2020 and I’m expecting nothing less than him making a serious run at taking the title at Leopard Creek.

1.5 pts Hennie Du Plessis each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 35/1 

Hennie Du Plessis gets another go this week after a 25th-place finish that offered plenty of promise in last week’s South African Open.

Du Plessis was in the mix after each of the first two rounds there, sitting 6th after round one and 8th following round two. He tumbled down the leaderboard after a disastrous finish to his third round, recording a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par 5 last and started the final round in 41st, but rallied on day four, shooting 2-under-par to move back up to 25th place. One hole ultimately proved the difference between finishing 25th and a top 5, possibly top 2 performance.

That result came on the heels of two quality performances in South Africa in his last two starts, as he finished 6th in the Nedbank Challenge and 21st in the Joburg Open two weeks ago.

The South African has recorded just one top 25 at Leopard Creek in five visits, when 25th in 2020. Though his strong record at Gary Player Country Club - where aside from his 6th this year, he also finished 6th in the 2020 South African Open – suggests he’s capable of bettering that.

The quality of Du Plessis’ ball-striking game, especially the driver (ranking 3rd last season) is another good pointer for potential success here and providing he can keep that horror hole off his card, I expect a best-yet performance in the Alfred Dunhill Championship this week.

1 pt Jeff Winther each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 55/1 

Jeff Winther was in fine form at the end of the previous DPWT season and comes into this fresh, after recharging his batteries the last two weeks following an eventful 9th-place finish in the DP World Tour Championship.

The Dane’s excellent finish to last season began with a runner-up finish in the Open de France at the end of September and he followed that with three more top 10s over his next six starts, when 10th in the Dunhill Links, 6th in the Andalucia Masters and finished his season with that 9th in Dubai.

Winther has been the best putter in this field over that period and ranks 9th on the greens for the season as a whole. His iron play has also been strong, ranking 27th over the last three months and whilst lacking explosiveness off the tee, he is reasonably accurate.

After missing his cut here on debut in 2015, he has gone on to make his next three and recorded a best of 34th in 2018. Currently in the form of his career, I’m confident he can improve that this week.

Winther has had many strong performances in South Africa, including a 2nd in the 2016 Tshwane Open. His Open de France record, where he’s also finished 8th to go with his 2nd this year, is another plus and with the positive words of Jon Rahm hopefully still ringing in his ears following them playing together in the third round in Dubai, I’m expecting him to be a serious contender this week.

1 pt Gavin Green each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 60/1

Gavin Green has started this Opening Swing in strong form, leaving behind his performances from the end of last season. With an attractive book of comp form for this challenge I’m taking this often streaky player to go well at Leopard Creek.

Green started 2023 in inauspicious form, missing his first four cuts but found form when 8th in the Indian Open. Over the next few months he went on to record a further six top 25s and another three top 10s, finding a best effort of the year when 6th here in South Africa in the Jonsson Workwear Open. Though barring a further top 10 when 8th in the European Masters, Green’s form had largely deserted him in this latter part of the year.

The Malaysian star has turned it around in South Africa the last two weeks. He shot a superb final-round 64 to finish 7th in the Joburg Open two weeks ago and was rock-solid every day when 12th in last week’s South African Open.

He was the best putter on tour last season and this club has largely engineered his results in recent weeks, ranking 1st on the greens in the Joburg and 4th in the S.A Open. However, it’s some stronger ball-striking efforts that make him stand out here, as he ranked top 20 off-the-tee last week and top 20 in approach the week before.

If he can get both of those areas working at the same time this week, whilst continuing to shine on the greens, he can pummel the par 5s – on which he ranked 23rd in scoring average last season – and he’d have the ideal game to take it to this course.

Green finished 47th on his one-and-only visit here in 2020, though did open with a 68 to sit 5th after round one. His 2nd in India in 2017 offers added encouragement, as do top 10s at the Nedbank and at Valderrama, presenting us with a player who ticks a lot of boxes at this week.

1 pt Alexander Knappe each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 200/1 

Alexander Knappe has enjoyed success in South Africa before and after a promising debut effort at Leopard Creek last year, I’m taking him to add another big showing in the country to his C.V this week.

Knappe’s return to the DPWT started off brightly early this year, as he recorded back-to-back top 6 finishes when 3rd in the Thailand Classic and 6th in the Indian Open. These results ultimately proved to be of huge importance, after a lack of form for much of the rest of the season saw the German just about managing to hold on to his tour card for this 2023/24 season.

He did find a little more consistency over the final three events of the previous season, with top 40s in Qatar and the Open de Espana; then initially carrying that form over to South Africa where he finished 24th in the Joburg Open before missing the cut at Blair Atholl last week.

Knappe looked strong with driver and on the greens in the Joburg, ranking top 15 in both and this is very much representative of where his biggest strengths have lay throughout much of his career. He’s also a player who is able to use his ample power to play the par 5s well, which should serve him well down the stretch here.

Indeed he showed this on his debut at Leopard Creek last year, ranking 26th on the par 5s, which helped him on his way to a 22nd-place finish after sitting inside the top 10 at the completion of his opening two rounds.

This strong debut effort was no surprise for a player who had previously excelled on another Gary Player design in South Africa – Fancourt. Aside from winning in 2022, Knappe has recorded two further top 4 finishes in the Dimension Data Pro-Am and with that 6th in India this year again showing his capacity to perform on the legendary golfer’s layouts, this four-time Challenge Tour winner looks a huge price to earn a DPWT breakthrough this week.

You can read all Jamie Worsley's Golf Betting Tips on our Insights golf hub. 

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