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Saturday, 15 December, 2018

28-1 Stone can roll away with Creek honours

Youngster bounced back to form in Cape Town

Brandon Stone looks ready to sparkle at the BMW SA Open
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Palmer’s top tip
Brandon Stone 28-1
Charl Schwartzel is the king of Leopard Creek and the 2011 Masters champion dominates the betting for the Alfred Dunhill Championship.

Schwartzel’s Alfred Dunhill record is second to none. When the tournament moved to Leopard Creek at the end of 2004, he won his maiden European Tour title there in a playoff at the age of 20, and he has triumphed at this venue on three further occasions. Margins of victory were 12 shots in 2012, then four in 2013 and 2015.

Schwartzel’s Leopard Creek form figures, starting with the 2003 South African Tour Championship and ending with last year’s renewal, read 11-1-2-2-MC-14-2-2-1-1-26-1. He has been runner-up four times in addition to his four successes. He is 122 under par for the 11 Dunhills there and eight of Schwartzel’s 11 European Tour victories have come in South Africa.

Last year’s advice was to smash the Dunhill hotpot at 13-2, but Schwartzel is almost half that price 12 months later, and a less attractive proposition. A third-place finish in the DP World Tour Championship last time out means the layers have run for cover.

Schwartzel is obviously the man to beat on his favourite course, but such short odds can be left alone. An unsettled weather forecast is not ideal – thunderstorms could have a role to play and a shortened tournament should not be ruled out – and some comments the favourite made after the HSBC Champions in China are worth noting.

Speaking to IOL News after sharing 30th place in the HSBC, Schwartzel said: “The golf swing’s not doing very well and I had a really bad back this week.”

Schwartzel showed no signs of discomfort in the DP World Tour Championship, but the HSBC was only a month ago, so the back problem may still be lurking. It is enough to dissuade a chunk at such short odds.

A more sporting wager is Brandon Stone, the star of the next generation of South African golfers. This time last year, Stone found top form, claiming his first professional title with a five-shot triumph in the Cape Town Open, before winning the SA Open a few weeks later.

Stone impressed again later in the year, finishing second in the Shenzhen International and fifth in the French Open. The youngster went quiet for a couple of months, struggling on his debut in the Turkish Airlines Open, Nedbank Challenge and DP World Tour Championship, but second place on his Cape Town defence last Sunday has restored trademark swagger.

Stone was 18th on his Alfred Dunhill debut last year, closing with a 67, and this sweet swinger could prove the biggest hurdle for Schwartzel to jump on Sunday.

Next best
Dylan Frittelli 45-1
Eighth place in the Challenge Tour Road to Oman rankings was enough for Dylan Frittelli to earn a European Tour card for 2017 and South Africa has another young talent coming up the ranks. Frittelli, a teammate of Jordan Spieth at college, has won twice on the Challenge Tour and has risen almost 800 places on the world rankings in the last year through consistently strong performances in low-grade competition.

Frittelli, 22nd and 11th in two previous Dunhill spins, closed with a 64 for eighth place in Cape Town on Sunday.

Other selection
Scott Jamieson 80-1
It was a great relief for Scott Jamieson to retain his European Tour playing rights through 107th place on the Race to Dubai (only the top 111 keep their cards) and the gutsy Glaswegian can be proud of the way he upped his game over the last three months. Jamieson delivered when needed, with tenth place in the KLM Open, seventh in Italy and 28th in the British Masters the key performances.

With the weight off his shoulders, Jamieson could freewheel to something special at a happy hunting ground this week. He was third in the 2012 Dunhill and some of his best work has come in South Africa. His lone European Tour victory was the 2012 Nelson Mandela Championship and he was runner-up in the 2013 Volvo Champions in Durban.

Jamieson’s first son was born the Friday before last, so positive vibes are coursing through the likeable Scot. He turned 33 two days ago and will be confident the best years of his career are still to come.
Other notables

Branden Grace won this event by seven shots two years ago, but he also has three missed cuts on his record and has not put in a standout performance since the USPGA.

Christiaan Bezuidenhout has bags of potential and won on the Sunshine Tour last month, but he missed the Leopard Creek cut by seven shots last year. 

Staking plan
B Stone
2.5pts each-way 28-1 Betfred, BoyleSports
D Frittelli
2pts each-way 45-1 Betfred
S Jamieson
1pt each-way 80-1 general


Tournament lowdown 

Course Leopard Creek Country Club, Malelane, South Africa

Prize money
€1.2m (€200,000 to the winner)

7,289 yards Par 72 Field156

Course records – 72 holes
264 Charl Schwartzel (2012)

18 holes 61 Thomas Aiken (2008)

Course winners taking part
Darren Fichardt (2001 SA Tour Championship), Charl Schwartzel (four times), Richard Sterne, Pablo Martin (twice), Garth Mulroy, Branden Grace

When to bet
By 5am tomorrow

Where to watch
Live on Sky Sports from 8.30am tomorrow

Time difference
South Africa is two hours ahead of the UK and Ireland

Course overview This Gary Player designed layout opened in 1996 and hosted the Tour Championship on the South African circuit from 2001 to 2004. The more prestigious Alfred Dunhill Championship moved to Leopard Creek in 2005 and has stayed at that venue ever since. The course is located on the southern edge of South Africa’s Kruger National Park and it offers an incredible golfing experience, with wild animals (lions, hippos, crocodiles, giraffes and antelope) often close by. Two long par-fours approaching the turn (the eighth and ninth) provide the greatest challenge. Two of the four par-fives (the 13th and 18th) are well in range in two shots, although a lake surrounds the 18th green and many stars (notably Ernie Els with his disastrous triple-bogey eight in 2007) have seen their title hopes find a watery grave there. The other two par-fives (the second and 15th) are 580 and 598 yards respectively

Story of last year Charl Schwartzel made merry for a fourth time at his favourite track, cruising to a four-shot triumph over Gregory Bourdy

Weather forecast
Baking hot and stormy for round one, before a cooler Friday and Saturday with light showers. Hot and stormy again on Sunday. Hardly any breeze throughout

Type of player suited to challenge
This is a long course, which typically gets softened by storms at this time of the year, so big-hitters can make hay. Charl Schwartzel, Ernie Els, Alvaro Quiros, Pablo Martin, Garth Mulroy and Branden Grace have all won on this track employing a power-packed approach, so punters should concentrate on lusty strikers with plenty of Leopard Creek experience in their locker

Key attribute

Schwartzel is 122 under par for the 11 Dunhills at Leopard Creek and eight of his 11 European Tour victories have come in South Africa
E.W. Terms
Sky bet