It was a fantastic end to the European Tour’s season as Jon Rahm hit the jackpot both for him and us with a victory in Dubai, which also landed him the Race To Dubai trophy and no small matter of somewhere in the region of $5 million.
We also boosted our coffers with a nice each-way return on Tom Lewis, so a great week all round.
So, with the European Tour season concluded for 2018/19 there will barely have been time for Rahm to uncork a celebratory champagne bottle or two before the 2019/20 season kicks off this week with the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa.
The Gary Player-designed Leopard Creek, is a par 72 measuring to 7,287yds and has hosted the tournament since 2004. A redesign in 2017 has made the scoring more difficult when compared to previous years and as a result the tree-lined fairways now run firmer and with bunkers in play off the tee, both combine to offer the layouts main defence.
Unsurprisingly, the main star turns of the European Tour are taking a break so it is the South African contingent who dominate the market, with Christian Bezuidenhout the 11/1 favourite, in a tournament where Paddy is paying the first 7 places before Thursday’s tee off.
Behind Bezuidenhout in the betting, are Branden Grace, Brandon Stone, Charl Schwartzel and Eddie Pepperell who was victim to a bizarre disqualification in Turkey, having had a ‘Tin Cup’ moment when he ran out of balls on the par 5 fourth hole. That, coupled with his form in general, does not inspire me to back him.
Bezuidenhout’s claims are undoubtedly strong, but his odds reflect that and I am also happy to swerve the horribly out of form Grace, along with Schwartzel, who is making his first start since a wrist injury curtailed his season last May.
Instead I shall start this weeks team with another of the home contingent, Brandon Stone @ 14/1.
A winner of this event in 2016, he has not finished outside the top 18 in three starts here.
Second last time out in Portugal, which came on the back of a 26th place finish in France the week before, Brandon appears to have rediscovered some form.
Well rested now after a months break and in an event he clearly loves, the three time European Tour winner is the standout selection for me this week.
Another South African, Zander Lombard, also catches my eye at 20/1. Third here last year and right in the hunt last time out in the higher-profile Nedbank Challenge, he fell back to eighth place on Sunday, Lombard should feel more comfortable at this level.
To wrap things up, I’ll look to the recent European Tour Qualifying School event for clues and play two at bigger each-way odds. The first of these is Niklas Lemke @ 80/1. The Swede was seventh here last year, just re-secured his card by finishing 25th at Q School and with the pressure now off his shoulders, he is fancied to go well again at Leopard Creek.
Finally I can’t resist a play on Englishman Laurie Canter at a huge 200/1 each-way. Canter was a standout amateur, winning the South African amateur title back in the day and has produced several strong performances on South African soil in his time on the European Tour.
Having lost his way in 2018, the 30-year-old regained his card at Q School by finishing fifth. It is just possible that he could ride that momentum to a big week on his return to the main tour.
*Prices correct at time of publishing