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Five things to know: SDC Championship 

Five things to know: SDC Championship 

The DP World Tour returns to South Africa this week for the SDC Championship, the first of two back-to-back co-sanctioned events with the Sunshine Tour on the International Swing.

Baldwin back at scene of first DP World Tour win

Among a host of excellent storylines on the DP World Tour last season was Matthew Baldwin’s maiden DP World Tour victory at the inaugural SDC Championship.

At the age of 37, and in his 200th start on Tour, the Englishman claimed a seven-shot victory at St Francis Links in a week when high winds provided for a stern challenge.

Baldwin has experienced a host of ups and downs on his journey to the winner’s circle.

Having graduated from the European Challenge Tour in 2011, he enjoyed an impressive first three seasons on the DP World Tour before losing his card a year later after injury and illness.

However, he was back for the 2018 season after coming through the Qualifying School, before securing his seventh full season last year on the DP World Tour via the 2022 Challenge Tour Road to Mallorca Rankings.

He now returns to the Eastern Cape for the defence of his title in search of his first top 10 of the season.

International Swing nears a climax

The second staging of the SDC Championship marks the seventh and penultimate leg of the International Swing.

After last week’s Magical Kenya Open, it is the second of three events held in the continent of Africa with the Jonsson Workwear Open to follow as the final stop.

Among a host of enhancements to ensure every week counts on the DP World Tour this season, the leading member (not otherwise exempt) from the International Swing will qualify for the Genesis Scottish Open.

While Rory McIlroy is the favourite to finish top of the standings following his win at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic and runner-up finish at the Dubai Invitational, there is plenty to be played for among those not assured of their spot at the forthcoming second Rolex Series event of the year.

With 3,000 Race to Dubai ranking points to play for, Challenge Tour graduate Ugo Coussaud, ranked tenth in the current swing standings, is among those who will have his eyes sight on a good week to help his hopes of being at the Renaissance Club this summer.

The International Swing rankings

Rory McIlroy1096
Rasmus Højgaard630.2
Thorbjørn Olesen628.7
Adrian Meronk615
Tommy Fleetwood578.5
Rikuya Hoshino554.7
Dylan Frittelli535.1
Darius van Driel525.8
Zander Lombard509.1
Ugo Coussaud414.5

Inside the field

In fact, Coussaud is one of four players in the top 10 on the International Swing standings - alongside Rikuya Hoshino, Dylan Frittelli and Zander Lombard ­­- teeing it up on South African soil this week.

Hoshino and Frittelli have both already won during the ongoing swing, while Coussaud and Lombard have both enjoyed runner-up finishes.

Lombard has been a picture of consistency, registering no worse than a tie for 16th in his last six starts worldwide as he has climbed to a career-high 96th in the Official World Golf Ranking.

The $1.5-million tournament has drawn a strong South African challenge, with Thriston Lawrence, Ockie Strydom, Darren Fichardt, Jayden Schaper and Casey Jarvis among those also hoping for a home win.

After finishing runner-up to Baldwin last year, Adri Arnaus hopes to go one better this week, with the Spaniard joined by a host of fellow DP World Tour winners like Tom McKibbin, Ewen Ferguson, Nick Bachem and Jeff Winther.

Praise for one of South Africa's best courses

St Francis Links lies a little inland from the coast, but still holds traits of a links layout with its undulating terrain ensuring that shot making is a pre-requisite to perform well.

The Jack Nicklaus design is widely viewed as among the best in South Africa, having been voted the country’s best new course in 2007.

The 7,192 par-72 venue features a mix of ten par fours, four par threes and four par fives, including the 620-yard 16th. Last year, the 457-yard 11th proved the toughest assignment, playing almost half a shot over its par over the week.

While still a new championship venue, it has served as the home of the prestigious South African PGA Championship for the last three years.

Challenge Tour graduate Jarvis, who finished second behind George Coetzee at that event in 2022, is looking forward to returning to a golf course he rates highly.

“I think it’s one of the best golf courses in the country,” he said. “It’s just a really good golf course, and a challenging one in the wind. It’s quite soft around the greens so doesn’t play like a true links, but the overall layout is just really really good.”

St Francis Links-1474078102 (2)

Sunshine Tour partnership

The relationship between the DP World Tour and Sunshine Tour goes back over a quarter of a century and was strengthened by a new landmark announcement in July 2021.

The two Tours have combined around 100 times on tournaments since the first co-sanctioned event, the Lexington South African PGA Championship at the Wanderers Club, in February 1995.

Four-time Major winner and former World Number One Ernie Els, the winner of that event, remains the most successful South African player in the Tour’s history with 28 DP World Tour titles.

With in-form Sunshine Tour member Ryan van Velzen on show after his title challenge in Kenya, the partnership continues to help the career development of South African players.

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