SDC Championship: Otaegui fancied at 43/1

St Francis Links Golf Course
The 18th hole at the St Francis Links

The DP World Tour returns to South Africa for the second edition of the SDC Championship and Steve has the lowdown ahead of Thursday's start here...

  • Scrambling the key stat at St Francis

  • Course experience far from essential

  • Read my Cognizant Classic preview here


  • Tournament History

    Following Darius Van Driel's win at the Kenya Open, the DP World Tour moves south this week for the first of two consecutive events in South Africa.

    The Jonsson Workwear Open will conclude the Tour's International Swing at Glendower next week but first we've got the second edition of the SDC Championship at St Francis Links in the Eastern Cape.

    Venue

    St Francis Golf Links, St Francis Bay, Eastern Cape, South Africa

    Course Details

    Par 72 - 7,192

    Stroke Average in 2023 - 72.74

    Designed by Jack Nicklaus and opened in 2006, St Francis Bay Links was voted the Best New Course in South Africa in 2007 and it consistently ranks as one of the top 10 golf courses in the country.

    Here's a video of Nicklaus talking about the venue in December 2006, where he says St Francis Links may well be '...the best golf course I have ever seen'.

    It's a traditional links course with a standard par 72 layout with four par fives and four par threes. For more on the course, see the hole explorer on the venue's website here.


    Weather Forecast


    TV Coverage

    As was the case last year, this event won't be shown on Sky Sports

    Last Year's Inaugural Result

    In an event badly affected by the weather, Norway's Kristian Krogh Johannessen led by three strokes at halfway. He was matched at a low of 2.01/1 when he stretched his lead to five early in round three on Saturday, but things changed after that.

    Pre-event 240.0239/1 chance, Matthew Baldwin, who was in search of his first DP World Tour title at the 200th attempt, reeled the Norwegian in as the day wore on and, when they retuned on Sunday morning with holes to play in round three, the Englishman moved clear.

    He began the fourth and final round trading at odds-on with a four-stroke lead and victory for the 37-year-old was never in doubt after that. He went on to win by seven.

    The key stat at events previously staged here on the Sunshine Tour (listed below) had appeared to be Scrambling and it was still important in this event. Baldwin ranked 13th, and five of the top-eight scramblers finished inside the top-13, but the most important stats in this event were Driving Accuracy and Greens In Regulation, although the first and second, Baldwin and Adri Arnaus, also ranked second and first for Putting Average.

    No stats were produced for Jaco Ahlers who finished tied for third but the other six players to finish inside the top-seven ranked first, second, third, fourth, seventh and 19th for DA. Six of the top-seven in the GIR rankings finished inside the top-12.

    Matthew Baldwin wins SDC.jpg

    Baldwin ranked third for Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and first for SG: Tee to Green but Arnaus in second ranked only 25th and 114th for those two metrics so I'm not convinced the data is 100% reliable.

    Previous Results at the St Francis Links

    The St Francis Links has hosted 12 events on the Sunshine Tour, including the last three editions of the South African PGA Championship. Here's the top-three and ties at all those events, as well as last year's SDC Championship result and the latest edition of the PGA Championship, which was played here in September last year.

    Vodacom Origins of Golf Tour Final 2007 (54 holes)

    • Titch Moore -7
    • Ulrich Van Den Berg -4
    • Henrick Alberts +1

    Vodacom Origins of Golf Tour Final 2008 (54 holes)

    • Jaco van Zyl -2
    • Bradford Vaughan -1
    • Andrew Curlewis +3

    Vodacom Origins of Golf Tour Final 2013 (54 holes)

    • J.J Senegal -4 (playoff)
    • Titch Moore -4
    • Lyle Rowe -2

    Vodacom Origins of Golf Tour Final 2014 (54 holes)

    • Keith Horne -9
    • Erik Van Rooyen -6
    • Wallie Coetzee -1
    • Ulrich Van den Berg -1

    Vodacom Origins of Golf Tour Final 2015 (54 holes)

    • Christiaan Basson -11
    • Mark Williams -10
    • Bibby Brice -9
    • Zander Lombard -9

    Vodacom Origins of Golf Tour Final 2016 (54 holes)

    • Mark Williams -11
    • Christiaan Bezuidenhout -9
    • Jacques Blaauw -6
    • Keith Horne -6
    • Madailtso Muthiya -6

    Vodacom Origins - St Francis Links 2017 (54 holes)

    • Doug McGuigan -13
    • Hennie Du Plessis -11
    • Scott Campbell -9
    • Neil Schietekat -9
    • Steve Surry -9

    Vodacom Origins - St Francis Links 2018 (54 holes)

    • Alex Haindl -12
    • Jake Roos -11
    • Neil Schietekat -11

    South African PGA Championship 2021 (72 holes)

    • Dean Burmester -17
    • Pieter Moolman -15
    • Louis De Jager -14

    Vodacom Origins - St Francis Links 2022 (54 holes)

    • Ruan Korb -13
    • Ockie Strydom -11
    • Doug McGuigan -9

    South African PGA Championship 2022 (72 holes)

    • George Coetzee -15
    • Casey Jarvis -12
    • Hennie Otto -11
    • Jake Redman -11

    SDC Championship 2023

    • Matthew Baldwin -18
    • Adri Arnaus -11
    • Jaco Ahlers -10
    • Jens Dantorp -10
    • Ewen Ferguson -10
    • Antonie Rozner -10

    South African PGA Championship 2023 (72 holes)

    • Rupert Kaminski -8
    • Matthew Spacey -7
    • Adam Breen -4
    • Peter Karmis -4
    • Ryan Van Velzen -4

    Is There an Angle In?

    Given there had been so many tournaments on the Sunshine Tour before last year's inaugural edition of this event, I thought the DP World Tour players may be a bit disadvantaged but that wasn't the case.

    Following his tied third in this event last year, South African, Jaco Ahlers, now has course form figures reading an impressive 34-MC-9-4-5-3 but he was the only player from the home contingent to finish inside the top-eight and the other seven were all Europeans playing the course for the first time.

    In-Play Tactics

    The variation in the winning scores here suggest conditions have been quite different from year to year but, as is so often the case at links layouts, the majority of course winners have been up with the pace.

    Baldwin was never outside the top-10 last year and was clear after three rounds. Looking at the three editions of the South African PGA held here over four rounds, Rupert Kaminski was inside the top-five places all week in September, George Coetzee was never outside the top-two places in 2022 and, although Dean Burmester sat tied for 12th and six adrift at halfway in 2021, he sat fourth and three back with a round to go before going on to win by two.

    Looking at the nine events staged here over only 54 holes, the first seven winners sat first or second with a round to go and Alex Haindl, in 2018, sat third and four adrift after 36 holes.

    Ruan Korb trailed by seven strokes in 15th place after two rounds in 2022, before firing 63 in round three to win by two, but he's the only course winner to come from off the pace so far.

    Market Leaders

    Thriston Lawrence heads what is a very open market but he makes little appeal at around 16/117.00.

    This is his third appearance at the track and there's nothing in his first two visits to suggest he's worth siding with.

    Lawrence finished 20th here on the Sunshine Tour back in 2018, when he failed to break 70, and he finished 14th in this event last year, having sat fifth with a round to go.

    Lawrence impressed in his first start of the year when he finished tied for second at the Dubai Invitational but after a couple of missed cuts and a tied 49th in Qatar, he was again disappointing last week, finishing tied for 19th in Kenya around a course that suits.

    Fellow South African, Zander Lombard, has course form figures reading 3-43-46 and he arrives in fine fettle after a strong start to 2024.

    After five top-20 finishes in-a-row on the DP World Tour, including a sixth in Dubai and a second in Bahrain, the 29-year-old finished sixth in the Dimension Data on the Sunshine Tour two weeks ago at Fancourt but he's still in search of his first DP World Tour victory and he too makes no appeal at less than 20/121.00.

    The Qatar Masters winner, Rikuya Hoshino, struggled last week in Kenya but should perform better this week and Ewen Ferguson is next up in the market after last week's seventh in Kenya.

    That came a week after he'd finished ninth behind Hoshino so the Scotsman is in form, but he was a little disappointing over the weekend last week and he's another I'm happy to swerve, although he did finish a distant third here last year.

    Selection

    Adrian Otaegui caught the eye last week when he signed off the Kenya Open with a six-under-par 65 to finish tied for fourth behind Darius Van Driel and I was happy to side with him here at 44.043/1.

    Adrian Otaegui at Valderrama.jpg

    The Spaniard telegraphed his first DP World Tour victory at the Paul Lawrie Match Play with a fifth placed finish in the European Open in his previous start and he finished second in the China Open prior to winning his second title, at the Belgium Knockout.

    He was an impressive winner of the Scottish Championship at the Fairmont St Andrews Links in 2020 and after winning at Valderrama two years ago in fine style, he may well be due to take his fifth DP World Tour title at a venue that should suit him.

    Back Adrian Otaegui @ 44.043/1

    Bet now

    Now Read Cognizant Classic: Is Rory ready to win again?


    *You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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