The seven previous champions of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek (EuropeanTour)
The Alfred Dunhill Championship returns to Leopard Creek next week for what is the second staging of this event on the 2011 International Schedule, and by delving into the stats we have been able to highlight exactly what it takes for victory round this stunning venue.
It is obvious that low scores, and therefore titles, come from accurate swings and a silky smooth putting stroke, but by looking into the numbers at Leopard Creek you can see some clear patterns of performance that emerge from the past winners.
In the previous seven stagings of this event, four of the eventual winners have ranked in the top ten in driving accuracy with a champions’ average of 54.34% of fairways hit each round en route to victory. Meanwhile, only one winner has ranked among the top ten in the driving distance category – Ernie Els in 2006 – showcasing that it is pin point accuracy rather than long hitting from the tee that lends itself to success here.
The approach play of the champions here has also been spot-on. Three of the eventual winners were ranked inside the top ten in greens in regulation in their winning year, with no champion ranking worse than 41st (Pablo Martin, 2011). Victors have averaged 72.41% of greens hit in regulation, with an average position at the end of their triumphant weeks of 13th in this Genworth statistical category.
Putting has always been key, as it is every week, but in seasons past winners here have hit a lot of greens – which usually lends itself to a higher putts per round total. However, those who triumph at Leopard Creek baulk that trend, with five of the seven previous victors ranking inside the top ten in this stat for the week, averaging 28.24 putts per round for an average position of 11th.
Local knowledge has been a big determining factor of success with as many as eight of the top 11 in 2006 being from South Africa. Over the years this has not always been so high, but on average 40 per cent of the top ten has been made up of home grown players. The homeguard have also claimed three victories here – Richard Sterne (2009), Els (2006) and Charl Schwartzel (2005) – which acts as further testament to this fact.
With this in mind, two home grown players looking to carry on this trend will be Thomas Aiken and Jaco Van Zyl. Both have performed well Leopard Creek in the past with the former, Aiken, having finished fifth earlier in the season and fourth in 2009. He has also enjoyed a great season on The European Tour, picking up his first win at the Open de España, and currently lying 17th on the Race to Dubai after seven other top tens this season.
Van Zyl has also had success here, with a best finish of eighth in 2005, and is coming off the back of his best year in Europe having had four top tens and four other top 20s which have elevated him to 51st on the Race to Dubai. He also fits the statistical make-up of a champion here at Leopard Creek, ranking 40th in putts per round and an impressive 14th in driving accuracy.
It is not only South Africans who have form at this venue, and ‘horses for courses’ is certainly very evident, with a number of players achieving repeat success. Defending champion Pablo Martin certainly acts as proof of this with two consecutive wins.
Another top performer here, has been England’s Robert Rock. He picked up his first win at the BMW Italian Open presented by CartaSi in May, but he came close to picking up a maiden title at Leopard Creek two years earlier when he finished two shots off the pace and tied for second behind Richard Sterne. He subsequently finished fourth in 2010 and eighth earlier this season.
Another Englishman who has also shown form here is Robert Dinwiddie who finished sixth here last December and eighth two years prior to that. He continued that early form with top tens at the next two events to start the current season, but has since a struggled a little, and needs another top performance here if he is to leap from 142 on the Race to Dubai and into that all important top 115.
So to win at Leopard Creek there are a clearly just a few things you need to know – hit it straight from the tee, find plenty of greens, hole some putts – and it doesn’t hurt to be South African either.