The Punter

Alfred Dunhill Championship: Burmester backed at 9/1 for hat-trick

Golfer Dean Burmester
Dean Burmester in action at the SA Open last week

After a busy week with three events, we've got just one to concentrate on this week - the Alfred Dunhill Championship - and our golf betting expert Steve Rawlings is here with the lowdown ahead of Thursday's start...

  • Greens-In-Reg the key stat at Leopard Creek

  • Valderrama form a big plus

  • Early start on Thursday could be advantagous


Tournament History

First staged in January 2000, at this year's Joburg Open venue - Houghton Golf Club - and won by the now retired Anthony Wall, the Alfred Dunhill Championship moved to its current venue, Leopard Creek, in 2004.

The Alfred Dunhill Championship is co-sanctioned between the DP World Tour and the Sunshine Tour and it's the third of three events in-a-row here following the Joburg Open and last week's South African Open, which were both won by Dean Burmester.

Venue

Leopard Creek Country Club, Malelane, South Africa.

Course Details

Par 72, 7249 yards
Stroke index in 2022 - 72.14

Set on the edge of the Kruger National Park, the spectacular Gary Player designed Leopard Creek opened in 1996. The signature hole is the par five 13th, which has a green that overlooks Crocodile River, but that's far from the only highlight - the course is visually stunning from start to finish.

Harry the Hippo, who used to reside in the lake adjacent to the 16th hole, is sadly no more but the camera operators frequently catch sight of leopard, impala, zebra, crocodile and many other species and Leopard Creek is an interesting venue. Regardless of the result, the Alfred Dunhill Championship is an event I always enjoy watching.

LEOPARD CREEK 1.jpg

There was no event here in 2018 as the course underwent a complete overhaul. The fairways and rough used to be Kikuyu but that's all gone now - replaced by a cynodon warm-season Bermuda grass and the greens were changed from Creeping Bent to a genetically engineered ultradwarf Bermuda, called Champion G-12 - the same strain planted at Quail Hollow prior to the 2017 US PGA Championship in North Carolina.

The fairways, which are undulating and lined with natural bush and trees, now run faster and firmer, bringing bunkers back in to play.

Leopard Creek has now been used for 18 previous editions of this event and Darren Fichardt, Nicholas Lawrence, Hennie Otto and Andrew McLardy all won the Sunshine Tour's Tour Championship here soon after the turn of the century but on the evidence of the last four renewals, Leopard Creek is a different course now.

Charl Schwartzel once won here with a winning total of 24-under-par (in 2012) and the average winning score of the six winners prior to the renovation, was more than 19-under-par but with absolutely nowhere to hide, the course averaged 74.34 for the week in 2019 and Pablo Larrazabal's winning score was -8.

David Lipsky managed to get to 14-under-par in the first edition after the changes but he put in a truly incredible putting performance. He had 12 one-putts on Sunday alone and he was one of only four men to beat Larrazabal's eight-under-par total.

Bezuidenhout managed to get to -14 in 2020 but he was four strokes clear of the rest and getting to double-digits under-par here isn't as easy as it once was.

The course did average a whole stroke less last year than in did it 2020 (no event in 2021 due to covid related travel restrictions) though, when huge outsider, Ockie Strydom, won by two in -18.


Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports form 10:00 on all four days, beginning on Thursday


Last Eight Winners with Pre-event Prices

  • 2022 - Ockie Strydom -18 180.0179/1
  • 2021 - Event cancelled
  • 2020 - Christiaan Bezuidenhout -14 20.019/1
  • 2019 - Pablo Larrazabal -8 60.059/1
  • 2018 - David Lipsky -14 270.0269/1
  • 2017 - Event cancelled
  • 2016 - Brandon Stone -21 30.029/1
  • 2015 - Charl Schwartzel -15 6.611/2
  • 2015- Branden Grace -20 25.024/1

What Will it Take to Win the Alfred Dunhill?

With the course changing so much, this is a very difficult event to evaluate statistically.

Brandon Stone won the final edition before the alterations in 21-under-par but in the four years since, last year's winner, Strydom, is the only man to get anywhere near that total.

The first winner following the course changes, David Lipsky, ranked 33rd for Driving Distance and 64th for Driving Accuracy and Pablo Larrazabal wasn't too straight either. He ranked 43rd for DA and 19th for DD. In contrast, the 2020 winner, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, ranked 36th for Distance and 10th for Accuracy and Strydom almost hit the pre-change averages for both metrics, ranking 18th for DD and 20th for DA.

The nine winners before the course alterations had an average Driving Distance ranking of 21.77 and an average Driving Accuracy ranking of exactly 20 so we can probably conclude that neither driving metric is critical.

Prior to the changes, Greens In Regulation was always a key stat. When Spain's Pablo Martin won back-to-back editions in 2009 and 2010, he only ranked 33rd and 41st for Greens In Regulation but he was the only winner in the nine renewals before the alterations to rank outside the top-11 for that stat.

Lipsky only ranked 53rd for GIR in 2018 but I'm inclined to think that will transpire to be an anomaly. Larrazabal ranked third in 2019, Bez ranked second in 2020 and the top-six last year ranked fifth, seventh, first, third, 11th and 45th. It's clearly a key stat.

Pablo Larrazabal at Leopard Creek.jpg

Prior to 2018, the most crucial stat had been Scrambling. Schwartzel only ranked 29th in 2015 and in 2014, Branden Grace had only ranked 19th but Brandon Stone ranked sixth in 2016 and Grace was the first winner in seven years to rank outside the top-three for Scrambling.

It hasn't been quite as important since the changes. Lipsky ranked 16th, Larrazabal only 33rd and Bezuidenhout ranked seventh three years ago. The top-six last year ranked only 30th, 11th, 40th, 49th, 38th and sixth for Scrambling.

Either side of the course changes, putting has always been an important factor. Stone's putting figures weren't spectacular in 2016. He had a Putting Average ranking of 19th and he ranked 12th for Putts Per GIR but the previous eight winners all had a Putting Average ranking of 11th or better and they all ranked inside the top-12 for Putts Per GIR.

Lipsky ranked fourth for PA in 2018, Larrazabal ranked third in 2019 and although he only ranked 19th for Putting Average, Bez holed a number of lengthy putts on Sunday in 2020 and he ranked second for Strokes Gained Putting.

Last year's first and second ranked sixth and seventh for PA so a good week with the flat-stick looks imperative.


Is There an Angle In?

The course hasn't changed a lot visually but the change from kikuyu to Bermuda grass has sped the whole track up (especially the greens) and the transformation has brought the scoring down considerably. This is a much harder test now which is why Valderrama appears to correlate very nicely now...

Bezuidenhout won here just weeks after winning at Valderrama and last year's renewal gave the link a boost too.

The runner-up, Otaegui, had won at Valderrama two months earlier and two others highlighted the connection.

Scott Jamieson, who led after rounds two and three 12 months ago, before a poor final round saw him finish 11th, sat tied for second at the halfway stage of the 2017 Andalucía Masters before eventually finishing sixth and last year's third, Laurie Canter, led the 2021 edition of the Andalucía Masters by three strokes after three rounds before finishing fourth.

That form alone is enough to demonstrate the link but there's plenty of other more obscure evidence to suggest the two venues correlate very nicely now.

The shock 2018 winner, Lipsky, was fourth at Valderrama in 2021, Will Besseling, who was tied for third behind John Catlin at Valderrama in 2020, was also tied for third in this event in 2021, Justin Harding, who finished alongside Besseling was tied for seventh here in 2019, Connor Syme was eighth in Spain and 11th here and finally, Johannes Veerman finished tied for 10th at Valderrama and tied seventh here in 2019.


Is There an Identikit Winner?

Charl Schwartzel has won the title four times and he's finished runner-up four times but he's far from the only player to perform consistently well here, so course form used to count for plenty.,

In addition to Schwartzel and the two-time winner, Pablo Martin, Ernie Els should have won the event back-to-back, Garth Mulroy finished third when defending in 2012 and Richard Sterne, the 2008 winner, finished fourth in 2009. A number of players have back-to-back top-ten finishes and numerous players have multiple placed efforts but we've seen a bit of a change in the last three editions..

Prior to 2018, the previous six renewals had gone the way of a South African, but Zander Lombard was the only one in the first six places in the 2018 edition, the first two home in 2019 were Europeans and although the 2020 edition was won by home hero, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, only two of the top-11 were South Africans and the second and third were Europeans last year.

Spaniards seem to enjoy it here and had Otaegui had a better back-nine on Sunday 12 months ago (hit a low of 2.6213/8), five of the last 15 renewals would have been won by a Spaniard.


Winner's Position and Price Pre-Round Four

  • 2022 - Ockie Strydom - tied for the lead 5.85/1
  • 2021 - No event
  • 2020 - Christiaan Bezuidenhout solo third, trailing by three 4.84/1
  • 2019 - Pablo Larrazabal led by three strokes 1.845/6
  • 2018 - David Lipsky trailed by a stroke 5.95/1
  • 2017 - No event
  • 2016 - Brandon Stone led by three strokes 2.1211/10
  • 2015 - Charl Schwartzel led by five strokes 1.4840/85
  • 2014 - Branden Grace led by a stroke 2.588/5

In-Play Tactics

After sitting eighth and just three back after round one, last year's winner, Strydom, sat tied for 21st and seven off the lead at halfway following a disappointing 70 in round two, before a sensational 63 on Moving Day saw him tied for the lead with a round to go but his path to victory was unusual as a fast start is nearly always essential here.

Ockie Strydom wins at Leopard Creek.jpgAs many as six of the last nine winners were inside the top-four after day one, seven of the last nine winners have been in front at halfway and nine of the last 12 led with a round to go. Other than Bez, who sat third, the two odd men out sat second and trailed by a stroke. This is not a place to play catch-up and a morning start on Thursday could be a big plus...

Rain on Thursday night helped those drawn PM-AM (including the winner) in 2020 as the course played soft on Friday morning but I'd definitely favour the Thursday morning starters as ordinarily, this place gets fast and tough from the get-go.

The AM-PM side of the draw averaged 2.85 strokes less than their counterparts last year and four of the top-six (including the winner) began the event on Thursday morning.

As many as 19 players broke 70 on Thursday in 2019 and although there wasn't a huge differential between the AM-PM scores over the first two days, it was noticeable how many early starters on Thursday made hay early on with ten of the top-12 after round one enjoying an early start.

The eventual third, Besseling, and the winner, Larrazabal, sat first and second after round one and the two were locked together on the 72nd tee so that fast start really was key as the course just got harder and harder.

Only five players broke 70 on Friday and Sunday and only four managed it in round three. Concentrating on those that have started well in the morning on day one could well pay dividends.


Market Leaders

After back-to-back victories at the Joburg Open and the South African Open, Dean Burmester understandably heads the market, and the only surprise is just how much he's drifted.

Matched at a low of 6.411/2 when the market first opened, the 33-year-old has drifted to a high of 10.519/2.

Burmester had a poor record at Leopard Creek until last year when he finished seventh, so that would go someway to explaining the drift, and it's never easy to win two events in-a-row, let alone three. But he's in the form of his life and 9/110.00 is too big to ignore.

The next two in the market - Branden Grace and Christiaan Bezuidenhout - are both former winners of the event and they command plenty of respect.

Grace has also finished third and fourth on his last two visits, in 2019 and last year, but I'm more than happy to swerve him this time around.

Although he went on to win the South African Open in his very next start, he wasn't anywhere close to his best when he played here back in 2019. He had form figures reading MC-18-MC-W-29-9-W before he finished fourth 12 months ago. So he clearly raises his game at Leopard Creek but his last two efforts on the LIV Golf League have been poor and his 43rd in the Nedbank Challenge last time out was uninspiring too.

Bezuidenhout is a little harder to rule out after his ninth in the Joburg and his 17th in the South African Open. But he was very disappointing after a solid start last week.

He was hitting the ball brilliantly tee-to-green on Thursday. I backed him in-running on the strength of that first round in the hope a few more putts would drop. But after his 74 on Friday, he was never at the races.

Louis Oosthuizen is the only other player trading at less than 20/121.00 and he's fairly easy to dismiss.

With form figures reading 23-25-33-18-44-29, he can't be described as in-form and he failed to win here in his pomp so I'm happy to leave him out of my plans.


Selections

Obviously, there's a chance that he blows up this week after such a brilliant fortnight, but Dean Burmester must be on cloud nine right now and he might be able to push through and ride the momentum.

Back Dean Burmester @ 10.09/1

Bet now

I was happy to have a saver on the favourite and I was more than happy to back Thriston Lawrence at 24.023/1, who's no bigger than 16/117.00 on the High Street.

The four-time DP World Tour winner doesn't have a strong bank of course form with figures reading MC-MC-MC-49-MC-36 but he's very different player than the one who missed three cuts in-a-row here between 2014 and 2018. On his sole visit to Valderrama he finished sixth, so there's no reason to think he can't play well here.

Thriston lawrence joburg.jpg

With current form figures reading 5-7-10, the 27-year-old is in terrific form and the drift in the market is too big.

Having led by three with a round to go, he really should have won the Joburg Open two weeks ago, but he bounced back nicely enough last week when defending the South African Open title. He signed off with an impressive five-under-par 67 on Sunday, which in tricky conditions, was the lowest round of the day.

Back Thriston Lawrence @ 24.023/1

Bet now

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