Mercurial Alexander Levy has course and current form
Michael Lorenzo Vera returns to a track he has enjoyed
David Ravetto can learn from last week's experience
Every now and again golf throws some absolute curveballs at punters.
Consider last year's winner of the Dunhill Championship, Ockie Strydom.
Ahead of that triumph, the South African had played in the tournament, hosted by Leopard Creek Country Club, seven times and never once ended the week in the top 50.
Throughout that spell, he'd played weekend rounds on eight occasions and only twice broken 76.
In glorious contrast, 12 months ago, he carded 63-69 to win the tournament by two strokes.
Was that more astounding than the fact that he had placed just once in 43 previous starts on the DP World Tour? Or that he won again in February? Or that since he was fourth in the Jonsson Workwear Open that same month he has played four rounds just twice in 15 starts? (And the last of those was in a tournament with no cut.)
He wasn't alone in 2023, however.
Dale Whitnell carded three rounds of 79 in four tries ahead of a stunning (and comprehensive) victory in Sweden - he then went 15 events without one top 50.
Todd Clements won in Czechia and it was his only top 20 in 30 starts for the season. Daniel Gavins had one top 10 in 2023 and it was a win in the UAE. Matthew Baldwin had two top 10s, one of them a win in South Africa.
Remarkable record books and the quirks even extend to major winners.
2011 Masters winner Charl Schwartzel is a supreme example of the course versus current form debate this week.
In the latter, he has not one top five finish since winning the first LIV event last June in London.
But in 10 of his 15 starts in this tournament, on this course, he has finished in the top four (and eight times he ended the week in the top two).
Beware if you fancy the course form to prevail, though.
Since the grass was changed in 2017 (Steve Rawlings provides a detailed rundown of this transformation - see the link at the bottom of the page) Schwartzel has missed two cuts in three starts.
"A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma," Winston Churchill once said.
He was talking of another country but his words might be applied to golf and punting on it.
It can be a maddening experience, but it's also terrific fun trying to work it all out so let's plough on.
The change of grass seemed to suit the Frenchman.
Back in 2013 and 2015 he finished T52nd-MC in this event but on his return in 2020 he made a solid start to hit the weekend inside the top 30 and then recorded 68-69 to finish sixth.
He had injury problems in 2022 and, after a brief bright start in 2023, he lost his card.
But he opened last week's Australian Open with a 66 and closed it with a 67 to grab eighth.
He's a five-time winner on the DP World Tour and four of those wins have come straight after he's reacquainted himself with getting in contention.
There are some golfers for whom just one flash of the old form would be something of a concern, but Levy is a mercurial sort and the three-figure price is the clincher (in fact, that big quote also clinches top sport for the week).
It's also true that a bit of jetlag might be a worry, especially flying east to west, but golfers never cease to confound such notions and the column got a winner when ignoring that exact threat to Lucas Herbert in Japan in April.
We'll do so again.
It's over a decade since another Frenchman, Michael Lorenzo Vera, made the journey to Leopard Creek but he ought to have fond memories.
On debut in 2007 he smoothed his way through the field to finish ninth.
Two years later, a third round 66 had him four shots off the Saturday night lead before he ended the week eighth.
He closed last season just outside the safety zone but ought to get enough opportunities to regain his card in this campaign.
And he actually ended 2023 with some good golf.
He was in the top four through three rounds at the Open de Espana before finishing ninth and was fifth at halfway when T26th in the Andalucia Masters.
In his preview, Steve Rawlings notes a nice link between results at Leopard Creek and Valderrama which bodes well for MLV who has always liked the tough challenge of Valderrama and was second there in 2019 and the 54-hole leader in 2016.
(This week's French theme, by the way, is entirely coincidental.)
"I'm loving it, love the place," the Frenchman (yes, another one) said 12 months ago when he ended the second round in second place after opening with a pair of 67s.
"I love the design, the par-5s and I heard they changed the grass a few years ago. Well, I like the grass and I'm reading the greens so well."
A Saturday 73 tripped him up but a final round 69 earned him ninth and he'll be excited about his return after another good effort last week.
He spent the first 54 holes of the South Africa Open inside the top six before a closing 75 left him T17th (he posted on Instagram afterwards: "I'll be back.")
It was more proof that he enjoys playing in South Africa.
He was seventh in last year's Jonsson Workwear Open, a rare foray onto the main tour that year, and he was also the first round leader in the SDC Championship this year.
A bonus (with the caveat that DP World Strokes Gained data is somewhat erratic) is that he was, in theory at least, first for SG Tee to Green last week.
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