A guide to taming Leopard Creek

11/30/2012 4:09:16 PM
A leopard tee marker keeps an eye on the action  (Getty Images)
A leopard tee marker keeps an eye on the action (Getty Images)

With the ninth staging of the Alfred Dunhill Championship set to form the second half of a South African double-header to start the 2013 European Tour season we took a look at the Genworth Financial Statistics to see what it takes to win round this testing Leopard Creek CC layout.

With statues on each tee detailing the many stages of a Leopard’s life, it acts as a reminder that in the previous eight stagings of this event there have been a multitude of different winners , each claiming victory in different ways.

Take for example Charl Schwartzel in 2005 who was the first of three South African’s to win this title at Leopard Creek. He based his title assault on fundamentals and accuracy into the putting surface, hitting 72.2 per cent of the Greens in Regulation, as well as ranking eighth in Putts per Round with just 28.3 that week. That all added up to victory, although only after overcoming England’s Neil Cheetham in a tense play-off in front of his home fans.

The following year compatriot, and South African legend, Ernie Els took glory by three strokes from Louis Oosthuizen all thanks to great form from the tee. Not only was he accurate, hitting 58.8 per cent of the fairways to rank tenth in the field, but he also hit it long too, finishing in the same place on the Distance stats with an average of 303.8 yards from the tee. However, much like Schwartzel before him, he had to rely on a solid putting display to make up for some uncharacteristic iron play that saw the Big Easy only hit two-thirds of the greens in the right number or less.

Going about his wins slightly differently, and the only man to successfully defend this title, was Pablo Martin who relied more than most on his putter to claim both of his titles. First time round, in 2010, the Spaniard ranked third and fifth for the week in Putts per GIR and Putts per Round respectively, while he performed even better the following year when he finished second in both putting categories. That year he also ranked eighth in Driving Accuracy en route to a two shot victory.

But possibly the most impressive of all the winners at this venue, having won here in 2009, was Richard Sterne who ranked third in Driving Accuracy with 67.9 per cent, fifth in Greens in Regulation hitting 81.9 per cent, and 12th in both putting categories, as well as getting up and down every time from sand. That week the only black mark, if you can call it that, was a 35th place in Driving Distance, but it did not prevent him from claiming a one shot win.

Throw in the steady play of John Bickerton, who won this title in 2008, and Spanish bomber Alvaro Quiros who won the year prior, and you have a roll of honour as eclectic as the wildlife on show in the surrounding Kruger National Park, and should make for another thrilling instalment this time round.