Christiaan Bezuidenhout has won the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek but it was far from a straightforward affair. Steve looks back on the event here...
"With as many as four players trading at 2.3811/8 and below without winning, this remains a great event in which to take on short ones in-running."
Christiaan Bezuidenhout began the fourth and final round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship trailing by three and trading at trading at 4.84/1 but after three birdies in four from the third, he was tied for the lead with 19-year-old, Jayden Schaper, one ahead of the third round leader, Adrian Meronk, and he was matched at just 2.166/5.
After such a blistering start, it looked like he might assume command but his birdie at sixth was immediately followed by a tee-shot at the tough par three seventh that found the lake adjacent to the green and he followed up a double-bogey five there with a bogey at the tough eighth.
Having made at least two bogeys on the front nine in rounds one, two and three, my 46.045/1 pre-event pick, Adri Arnaus moved to within one of the lead after a bogey-free, two-under-par opening nine and he was matched at just 4.03/1 after superb drive at the 10th but he fell apart after that, bogeying 10 and 11 before coming home in 40!
Schaper hit a low of 2.3811/8 as he made the turn but he then drove into the bush on the tenth before going on to chalk up a triple-bogey seven and after a sloppy start, and a birdie at the 11th, Meronk was back in front and back at the head of the market. The Pole hit a low of 2.226/5 but with everyone else letting him back in, he then drove into the water off the tee on 13!
America's Sean Crocker, who hit a low of 2.01/1, looked like being the last man standing after a birdie at the 13th but he couldn't kick on either, making a bogey six at the par five 15th after an awful drive, leaving Bezuidenhout to again hit the front with back-to-back birdies at 14 and 15.
It finally looked the drama might be all over after that but Crocker rolled in a lengthy birdie at 17 to get to within one and as it transpired, a birdie four at the par five 18th would have seen him match Bezuidenhout's eventual 14-under-par total. It wasn't to be though, he hit his drive out of bounds and made an eight to finish tied for second alongside Meronk, Schaper and Richard Bland, four strokes behind the 20.019/1 winner, Bezuidenhout.
Crocker's caddie, Dominic Bolt, consoling him afterwards was a sad sight but he wouldn't have been alone. You don't have to do much wrong around Leopard Creek to suffer and he was far from the only one. Croker's triple-bogey eight was the seventh score of seven or worse in round four at the 18th hole, the 34th of the week there and as many as 59 of the 65 players to make the cut recorded a double-bogey or worse throughout the week at some stage.
It's been a bad week and one I'll be very happy to move on from swiftly.
I'd spotted the clear link between Valderrama and Leopard Creek since the course changes here but didn't back the winner on account of price, despite being a huge fan and despite him winning the Andalucía Masters at Valderrama last year by six strokes! And I traded the tournament extremely poorly.
I didn't lay any of my Arnaus wager back and I just didn't do anywhere near enough in-running. As highlighted in the In-Play Blog, I backed Meronk after round one at 16.015/1 and last week's winner, JB Hansen, after round two, at 5.39/2. Given Meronk hit a low of 2.226/5 today and that Hansen, who eventually finished a very tired tied for 20th, traded at just 2.0421/20 on the front nine on Saturday, it's fair to say I didn't make the most of some decent bets.
Hansen was the big mistake. Danger lurks everywhere at Leopard Creek and his eight at the par four 11th in round three (the easiest on the course over the weekend) left me high and dry and hoping for a result rather than trading my way to one. I know this is all in hindsight, but had I traded my stakes back on Hansen yesterday I would have got Bezuidenhout onside before round four.
What Have we Learned This Week?
Rain on Thursday night helped out those drawn PM-AM (including the winner) as the course played soft on Friday morning but I'd still favour the Thursday morning starters going forward.
The rain stopped the course from being ultra-trough but Leopard Creek really is a tough test now and it was interesting to hear that Robert McIntyre played this week because the course is so much harder than before the changes. After a win last time out and a break of a couple of weeks, the young Scot took a while to get going but his tied sixth was eye-catching given this is not a course at which to play catch-up on.
Stats-wise, what you did off the tee wasn't particularly crucial but once again, Greens In regulation and Scrambling were the key stats.
Bezuidenhout ranked second for GIR, Crocker ranked third and Arnaus, who eventually finished tied for sixth, ranked fourth. Crocker also ranked third for Scrambling, Shaper ranked first and Bezuidenhout ninth. The winner only ranked 23rd for Putting Average but it was the flat-stick that won the event for him. He holed a number of lengthy putts on Sunday and he ranked first for Strokes Gained Putting.
And finally, with as many as four players trading at 2.3811/8 and below without winning, this remains a great event in which to take on short ones in-running.
We've got three tournaments to look forward to next week - two on the European Tour and one on the PGA Tour. The brand-new Golf in Dubai Championship runs from Wednesday to Saturday, there's the South African Open from the Gary Player Country Club and the PGA Tour skips over to Mexico for the Mayakoba Golf Classic. I'll be back over the next couple of days with my previews.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter
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