A new European Tour season has begun, and despite being only one tournament into the 2020 Race to Dubai, the Alfred Dunhill Championship offered a first look at how last year’s players will fare on the big stage.
The two Scottish graduates in the Class of 2019 looked right at home on the European Tour as they began their campaigns with the aim of following in the footsteps of their compatriot Robert MacIntyre in looking to be crowned Graduate of the Year. Connor Syme finished the tournament in a share of 11th place while his fellow countryman Calum Hill was right behind him in a tie for 13th. The two golfers were joined by only 11 other players who finished the tournament under par on the difficult Leopard Creek Golf Club layout.
Robin Roussel turned heads on the Challenge Tour in 2019 as he collected a win on home soil, a runner-up finish and a total of seven top tens during the season. Making just his second career start on the European Tour, Roussel finished the Alfred Dunhill Championships in a tie for 14th place on level par. At 26-years-old, the Parisian will be a player to watch as he acclimatises to competing against the world’s best. Another French graduate, Antoine Rozner also got his rookie campaign started off on a positive note as he made the cut before finishing in a share of 36th, while Polish graduate Adrian Meronk—who is the first golfer from Poland to play on the European Tour— also made the cut to pick up Race to Dubai Rankings points in his first start.
The nearly men
Joel Sjöholm and Wil Besseling might not have secured their European Tour cards by finishing in the top 15 on the Road to Mallorca, but the two players each nearly earned one over the weekend as they both held at least a share of the lead during the final round in South Africa. While a win would have earned either golfer full playing privileges on the European Tour, Sjöholm, the Alfred Dunhill Championship runner-up, picked up 305 points in the Race to Dubai Rankings Presented by Rolex. Last year Gaganjeet Bhullar, who earned 446.7 points, was the final player to keep his card, meaning that Sjöholm, and Besseling, who himself finished tied-third and grabbed 141.7 points, both now have a great chance of earning their European Tour cards through their remaining starts on the big stage.
It was not only last year’s Road to Mallorca stars who excelled in South Africa, with the winner also forming part of the Challenge Tour’s history. Spain’s Pablo Larrazábal claimed his fifth European Tour title at Leopard Creek following a stunning final round comeback. The Spaniard went into the final round with a three-stroke lead but near-debilitating blisters saw him card six bogeys and a double bogey to fall three shots behind at one stage. However, the 36-year-old regrouped to make three birdies in his last four holes to seal victory with a 75 and eight under par total. Larrazábal’s triumph is the 478th European Tour win by players with Challenge Tour connections.