Lowdown:
Just three weeks after the 2009 European Tour reached its climax at the Dubai World Championship, the 2010 season gets underway with the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa. Richard Sterne defends the title.
World number 17 Ernie Els will be amongst the favourites for the event – a tournament he has won three times in the past (1995, 1999 and 2005). Off the back of a strong performance in the WGC-HSBC Champions, “The Big Easy” is confident of a good showing. “The weather in South Africa is great at this time of year and I’m looking forward to teeing it up at Leopard Creek,” he said.
Designed by Gary Player, the course at Leopard Creek is in a stunning setting on the edge of Kruger National Park. Winding through the bush and grasslands past natural water hazards, the layout is famed for its plentiful and diverse wildlife. There’s a hippopotamus living in the lake by the 16th hole and waterbuck, impala, giraffes, crocodiles and leopards have all been seen on and around the course.
The tournament is the first of four consecutive European Tour events that will be held in South Africa. The South African Open visits Pearl Valley next week then the Africa Open and Joburg Open will take place next January.
Back in 1995 the championship was the first European Tour event to be co-sanctioned with another tour. Since then the competition has a reputation for producing first time winners. Eight of the past 15 Dunhill Championships have seen players claim their maiden European Tour victory – Sven Strüver (1996), Anthony Wall (2000), Adam Scott (2001), Justin Rose (2002), Mark Foster (2003), Marcel Siem (2004), Charl Schwartzel (2005) and Alvaro Quiros (2007). Last season Richard Sterne claimed his fourth European Tour title in the event, beating Johan Edfors and Robert Rock by a single shot. The South African was in a rich seam of form this time last year. He went on to win the South African Open Championship the following week. He’ll be back at Leopard Creek to defend his title.

Venue: Leopard Creek GC, Mpumalanga, South Africa
Date: Dec 10-13
Course stats: par 72, 7,249 yards
Purse: €1,000,000 Winner: €158,500
Defending Champion: Richard Sterne (-17)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 10 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 9.30am
Friday 11 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 9.30am
Saturday 12 – Live on Sky Sports Xtra from 10.30am
Sunday 13 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 10.30am

Player Watch:
Ernie Els – Three times a winner of this event, Ernie will be keen to start his 2010 European Tour campaign with a bang.
Edoardo Molinari – Topped the 2009 Challenge Tour rankings with record earnings then teamed up with his brother Francesco to win the World Cup for Italy. He’ll be looking to continue his fine form this week.
Richard Sterne – After an awesome start to the 2009 Race to Dubai, including a victory in this event, the South African struggled a little through the remainder of the season. He’ll aim to draw on good memories of Leopard Creek to return to the upper reaches of the leaderboard.

Key hole: 18th. A 541 yard par 5 that can be reached in two. Water comes into play on the approach – Ernie Els found it twice during the final round of 2007 and lost the tournament by a shot.

Skills required: Course management. With water coming into play on 10 holes, hazard avoidance is critical.