SDC Championship 2024 Tips: 100/1 one of five for South Africa

 | February 27 | 

13 mins read

Jamie DP World

The DP World Tour kicked off its three-week stay in Africa with the Kenya Open last week, where Dutchman, Darius Van Driel completed an impressive wire-to-wire victory for a maiden DPWT success.

The tour now moves on to South Africa for the second staging of the SDC Championship at the stunning St Francis Links. As always, our star tipster Jamie Worsley is on board with a comprehensive preview and five each way predictions ranging from 25/1 to 100/1. 

SDC Championship Betting Tips

  • 2 pts Antoine Rozner each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 25/1 
  • 1.25 pts Nacho Elvira each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 40/1
  • 1 pt Sam Bairstow each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 90/1 
  • 1 pt Dylan Fritelli each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 90/1
  • 1 pt Adri Arnaus each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 100/1 

TOURNAMENT HISTORY

The SDC Championship is co-sanctioned with the Sunshine Tour and made its debut last year, as Southport’s Matthew Baldwin claimed a first DPWT title in his fifteenth year as a professional.

He did so in emphatic fashion, shooting 65 and 68 over the weekend to beat Spain’s Adri Arnaus into second place by a massive seven strokes, and is back to defend the trophy this year.

THE COURSE

St Francis Links was designed by Jack Nicklaus and opened for play in 2006. The course – described as one of the most traditionally links-like tests in South Africa – is among the highest-rated venues in the country and is a personal favourite of “The Golden Bear”.

Prior to hosting a DPWT event for the first time last year, the course has been used regularly on the Sunshine Tour. It has been home to the last three editions of the Sunshine Tour’s PGA Championship from 2021-2023 and several Vodacom Origins events over the years.

Also commonly seen staging events in the amateur ranks, many South African players will have some level of familiarity with St Francis Links.

As a 7192-yard par 72, it will play to the same yardage and par as last year. It contains 10x par 4s (350-468 yards), 4x par 5s (533-620 yards) and 4x par 3s (167-208 yards).

The course divides opinion on whether it is a classic links but there can be no denying it plays like one. Built on naturally sandy and undulating ground, the rolling dunes – which are thick with native vegetation – frame this exposed venue, which plays firm if weather allows.

The fairways are extremely generous, ranking as the second-easiest to hit on tour last year, though they are protected by a plethora of strategic bunkering and some thick lies in the rough if straying too far.

The regular elevation changes – both uphill and downhill – makes it tricky to control distances into the large and demanding putting surfaces. Which are predominantly at an angle to the fairway and either shallow or narrow; making them very tough to hit last year despite the size of them.

According to Nicklaus, said undulating greens and their surrounds are the most challenging aspect of playing at St Francis Links. They are again heavily bunkered and with severe run-offs throughout, leading into collection areas around the greens, they ranked alongside the most challenging greens to scramble around in 2023.

The routing of the course means that rarely do two holes play in the same direction, which means wind can cause havoc if appearing, as it often does here. Water – in-play on around six holes, including five of the last six – adds one final aspect of danger to avoid.

It’s best to ignore Matthew Baldwin’s inspired -18 winning score last year; this is an incredibly demanding test if the wind blows, as shown by the next best man being a whole seven shots behind, and single digits under par being enough for a top-10 finish.

THE WEATHER

Conditions are forecast to be dry and warm before the start of the event and continuing into the first three rounds of the tournament, before the potential for thunderstorms and rain on Sunday. These conditions will be accompanied by gusts at upwards of 20mph during every round.

KEY STATS

  • SG: Around-the-Greens
  • SG: Putting

A quality short game is often a prerequisite for success on links(y) courses and with the designer himself warning of the pressure this place puts on those areas, I’m keen to look at players who impress on and around-the-greens.

Matthew Baldwin did just that last year, ranking 5th in putting and 9th ATG, followed by Adri Arnaus in 2nd, who ranked 1st in putting and 12th ATG. In fact, each player to finish in the top seven last year ranked 12th or better in putting and of the other strong performers ATG was Kristian Krogh Johannessen in 3rd, who ranked 2nd.

  • SG: Approach
  • Greens-in-Regulation

Jack Nicklaus courses are often described as being “second-shot courses”, requiring strength in approach. The large, undulating greens here punish players who not only miss these surfaces but hit the wrong spots; as such, strength with the irons is another necessity.

Baldwin ranked 3rd in greens-in-regulation and 11th in approach last year; Antoine Rozner in 3rd ranked 6th in GIR and 10th in approach; whilst another 3rd-place finisher, Ewen Ferguson, ranked 3rd in approach and 5th in GIR.

CORRELATING EVENTS

One event here is not enough to deduce firm form-ties but fortunately, there are no shortage of links/links-like courses on tour that we can look towards for clues.

It was noticeable that four of last year’s top 10 had previously recorded a top 5 in the Scottish Open, therefore form in that event, along with the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and the 2015/17/18/19 renewals of the Irish Open could prove helpful.

Additionally, the 2019 British Masters and 2022 Cazoo Classic at Hillside are worth a look, as is the 2020 Scottish Championship and 2021/22 Hero Open at Fairmont St Andrews.

Away from the UK and the exposed, firm nature of the Qatar Masters at Doha Golf Club and the Portugal Masters at Dom Pedro (Victoria Course) have meant these events have often produced links-loving leaderboards.

Other courses to consider with similar attributes are Yas Links, host of the Abu Dhabi Championship; Bernardus Golf, which hosted the Dutch Open from 2020-23; HimmerLand Resort, host of the Made in Denmark/HimmerLand until this year; the exposed Albatross Golf Resort which hosts the Czech Masters; and finally, La Reserve Golf Links - host of last year’s Mauritius Open - is a manufactured modern links-like course.

THE FIELD

World #81, Rikuya Hoshino is the top-ranked player in the field and one of four from inside the top 100; joined by #89 Thriston Lawerence, #98 Zander Lombard and #99 Keita Nakajima.

That strong home contingent is enhanced by several DPWT winners, including Dylan Frittelli, Thomas Aiken and Ockie Strydom; along with two of the countries brightest stars in the shape of Casey Jarvis and Jayden Schaper.

Andrew “Beef” Johnston makes his first start of 2024 after returning from injury late last year; 35-year-old journeyman, Bjorn Akesson gets rewards for his breakthrough win on the Challenge Tour last week here in South Africa; and Matthias Schwab continues to make use of that special PGA Tour category to try and fashion a return to form, showing glimpses last week with a top 25 in Kenya.

SELECTIONS

Market leaders: Zander Lombard 14/1, Ewen Ferguson 14/1, Thriston Lawrence 14/1, Tom McKibbin 16/1, Keita Nakajima 20/1

I’m going to start off near the top this week and whilst the links pedigree and ability to handle the wind made Ewen Ferguson of interest, I felt the price was now low enough.

At a good deal bigger, and also proven in the wind on exposed, linksy courses is three-time tour winner, Antoine Rozner and he goes in as the headline selection.

2 pts Antoine Rozner each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 25/1 

Rozner was in good form on the DPWT at the end of last year and has continued that into 2024. He kicked off the year with a 32nd-place finish in the Dubai Invitational and has improved his results over his next three starts, following that with a 16th-place finish in the Dubai Desert Classic, 12th in the Bahrain Championship and when we last saw him, he finished 6th in the Qatar Masters.

He hasn’t missed a cut in eleven starts going back to those latter starts in 2023 and with the results this year trending attractively in the right direction, he looked good value among those other market leaders. This is without mentioning the fact he finished 3rd in this event last year, where he hit the ball superbly and putted well.

We shouldn’t be surprised by the standard of the Frenchman’s debut effort at St Francis, he’s a past winner of a windy Qatar Masters and has recorded further top 10s there as well as in Portugal; a 4th in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship acts as another encouraging piece of form for this setup.

Rozner seems to have lost a little with the driver, where his inaccuracy is causing problems, although, these extremely wide fairways should be forgiving of that. He’s been in excellent form with his irons, ranking 12th in approach and for what he’s lost off-the-tee he has gained in the short game, ranking 27th on the greens and 67th around them this year. An overall skillset that should serve him well as he looks to go two better than last year in the SDC Championship.

Rozner

1.25 pts Nacho Elvira each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 40/1

Nacho Elvira is one of the form players on tour and after an encouraging debut effort here last year, he looks well placed for an even better performance this time around.

Elvira was looking solid at the end of 2023, finishing 3rd in Qatar in his third-last start and has carried this over into this year.

He followed a 28th in the season-opening Dubai Invitational by finishing 41st in the Dubai Desert Classic; then recording his first top 20 of the year when 16th in the Ras Al Khaimah Championship. After narrowly missing the cut in Bahrain he bounced back immediately with a 13th-place finish in the Qatar Masters and returned from the two-week break to finish runner-up in Kenya last week.

That finish at Muthaiga was engineered by quality in approach and with the short game, which is where he’s excelled overall this year, ranking 7th around-the-greens, 23rd in approach and 28th in putting; a collection of stats that will serve him extremely well at St Francis.

Elvira finished a promising 23rd in this event last year, a performance made all the more impressive considering he was in poor form entering that week; having missed four of his previous six cuts and finished no better than 40th in the other two starts.

Arriving here in far better shape - and with a packed book of correlating form that includes runner-up finishes at HimmerLand and in Qatar – the Spaniard looks to have every chance of collecting a second DPWT title.

elvira

1 pt Sam Bairstow each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 90/1 

Former top-10 amateur, Sam Bairstow has impressed in his rookie season so far and after a missed cut last week – his first of the year – he has drifted out to a very appealing price, at what should be a suitable setup.

Bairstow started his rookie season in South Africa at the end of last year and performed solidly, making three of his four cuts. He has stepped that form up this year, recording top-25 finishes in his first three starts before missing the cut in Kenya. However, as a runner-up in the prestigious Amateur Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 2022, he should feel much more comfortable in the linksy surrounds of St Francis Links and can bounce back this week.

The Yorkshireman is a solid ball-striker but has been excelling with the short game this year, ranking 19th on the greens and 31st around them; an eye-catching combination of stats for this test.

Bairstow’s 13th in Qatar is his best finish of the year so far and demonstrates further what he is capable of on exposed courses that are susceptible to wind. As a player whose ceiling may well be a good bit higher than most in this field, he was a no-brainer at the price.

sam bairstow

1 pt Dylan Fritelli each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 90/1

Another no-brainer at the price for me this week is Bahrain Championship winner, Dylan Frittelli. Part of the thinking for putting him up there was his proven ability on links setups and despite not looking at his best following that win, a return home – where he typically performs well - to another suitable course can spring him back into life.

Frittelli had been taking advantage of the new PGA Tour category since the back end of 2023. He made it pay with that battling victory at Royal Golf Club in Bahrain for a first win in five years; hitting the ball beautifully, ranking 1st in approach and 4th off-the-tee.

He hasn’t replicated that in his two starts since, understandably so on his next start in Qatar following the victory. Though he only missed the cut narrowly last week in Kenya and had his short game looking in decent shape.

Royal Golf Club certainly had some linksy elements and Frittelli has one of the best pieces of Open Championship form in this field, finishing 5th in the 2021 edition at Royal St George’s. He’s a three-time DPWT winner, as well as being the only player in this field with a PGA Tour victory to his name, and as such looks a big price for a second success in four starts.

dylan frittelli

1 pt Adri Arnaus each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 100/1 

There can be no denying that last year’s runner-up here, Adri Arnaus’ results haven’t been great this year. However, he looked a lot better in approach on his last couple of starts and as the best putter in the field on these greens last year, he can turn his putting woes around this week.

Arnaus started the year by finishing 53rd of 60 players in the Dubai Invitational and then missed his next three cuts in the Middle East. Though there were nuggets of positivity to be found.

He gained strokes around-the-greens in Dubai and in approach at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship. Then putting both of these together last time out in Bahrain. He seriously struggled with the putter there, a surprise considering how strong he’s been with that club in recent years and whilst the driver has been a concern, he should be more at ease in the vast and inviting fairways here.

As mentioned, Arnaus finished 2nd here last year – not the first time he’s gone close in South Africa after finishing 2nd in the 2022 MyGolfLife Open - and whilst he drove the ball well and looked tidy ATG, it was the putter that did most of the work.

He can draw some confidence from that experience and if able to continue the improvements in approach that he was showing before the break, the unpredictable Spaniard could suddenly burst into contention.

adri arnaus

You can find all Jamie's latest Golf Betting Tips over on our dedicated golf Insights hub.

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