Pablo Martin of Spain is in South Africa this week to see if he can win an historic third consecutive Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek Country Club in Malelane.
This is the second time the Alfred Dunhill Championship has appeared on the 2011 European Tour schedule. When the event kicked the circuit off last December, Pablo Martin arrived as defending champion and he continued his love affair with the course at Leopard Creek, finishing two shots clear of Charl Schwartzel, Thorbjorn Oleson and Anthony Michael.
Martin is back once again to try and join Ian Woosnman, Nick Faldo, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els as the only men to have won three consecutive European Tour titles.
“I don’t know what it is about the place,” he said. “If I knew what it was that makes me win here I would do it every week but it is the place that I just go to and become totally relaxed.”
With just four events left on the 2011 Race to Dubai, a number of players in the field this week are feeling the pressure. Some are trying desperately to ensure they finish in the top 115 on the money list in order to retain their playing privileges for 2012, others are looking towards the top-60 and the prospect of competing in the Dubai World Championship.
Although the field is dominated by home players, a number of the lower ranking Europeans are on the start sheet, many from the Challenge Tour or those who finished outside the top 115 on last year’s European Tour.
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. Hippopotamus, waterbuck, impala, giraffes, crocodiles and leopards have all been seen on and around the course.
Back in 1995 the championship was the first European Tour event to be co-sanctioned with another tour.
Venue: Leopard Creek Country Club, Malelane, South Africa
Date: Nov 17-20
Course stats: par 72, 7,326 yards
Purse: €1,000,000 Winner: €166,660
Defending Champion: Pablo Martin (-11)
Thursday 17 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 8.30am
Friday 18 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 8.30am
Saturday 19 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 10.30am
Sunday 20 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 10.30am
Tommy Fleetwood – The young Englishman headed this year’s Challenge Tour ranking and he’s picked up over €300,000 in prize money this year from both the Challenge and European Tours. His star is in the ascendancy so look for him to shine this week.
Tjaart Van der Valt – The South African is not a frequent competitor on the European Tour, but when he does get a start he tends to perform well. He was 13th in this event last December and he was ninth in last week’s Singapore Open. A good each-way bet.
Thomas Aiken – Currently 19th on the Race to Dubai, Aiken will be many people’s favourite this week. He recorded two top-five finishes in the recent “Spanish Swing” and he’s won almost €1 million on the 2011 Tour.
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, made an eight and ended up losing by a single shot to John Bickerton.
Skills required: Finding the greens in regulation. The last seven winners of this event have averaged 72.41% of GIR.
Preview – Iskandar Johor Open