Jack Milner previews the Alfred Dunhill Championship and gives three selections for the first event of the new European Tour season.
The European Tour was wrapped-up last weekend in Dubai with Jon Rahm capping-off yet another spectacular season with success in the DP World Tour Championship, which ensured a maiden Race to Dubai success in the Middle East.
Nevertheless, a week on from the 2018/2019 season over the tour rolls on into South Africa with a number of local favourites out in force bidding for success on home soil. Christian Bezuidenhout heads the market as the early market leader after a spectacular season, winning for the first time on tour, and brilliant performances towards the back end of the campaign.
He is flanked by compatriots Branden Grace, Brandon Stone and Charl Schwartzel who all boast form around the track but have struggled for consistency and warrant opposing around the 16/1 mark. The same can be said about Eddie Pepperell who is arguably the class-act in the field but remains an enigma off the golf course and was disqualified from the Turkish Open earlier in the month after apparently ‘running out of golf balls’ according to the Englishman.
South Africans do have a tremendous record here, winning the last six renewals, and if that record is to be continued then I think Justin Harding is the most likely man to do so. Harding has been a revelation in the last 12 months, winning the Qatar Masters in March and following-up with consistent efforts thereafter. He returned from a break in the autumn to make all four cuts at the four season-closing events in China, Turkey, South Africa and Dubai and looks primed to go close in his own back yard.
Of those at bigger prices, the young guns primed to spoil the party include Connor Syme, who looks a player with enormous potential. The 24-year-old won on the challenge tour earlier in the season and has performed with credit thereafter; an excellent T15 finish at the Challenge Tour Grand Final earning his card for next season.
I expect him to do well on tour next term, and the same applies to both Alexander Bjork and Oliver Wilson who looks fairly priced around the 50/1 and 66/1 mark respectively. Wilson scuppered an excellent week when firing a final-round 82 at the Nedbank two weeks ago, to finish T30.
Leopard Creek is one of the Englishman’s favourite courses, commenting in the week, ‘“This is one of my favourites anywhere in the world. It’s a phenomenal place, one that I’ve been in love with for the last 15 years since I first came down here.’
He clearly thrives around the place and has a point to prove before a likely Christmas break, and that likewise applies to the Swede Alex Bjork. Bjork hasn’t been sighted since last month’s Portugal Masters and has struggled to breakthrough since his China Open success last April. The 29-year old looks sure of further success when it all ‘clicks’ however, and has been far from disgraced thereafter – making 33 of 49 cuts in 2018/2019. Given the makeup of the field, he should prove much better than a lot of his rivals.
Connor Syme 80/1 (+8000)
Alexander Bjork 50/1 (+5000)
Oliver Wilson 66/1 (+6600)