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Thomas Aiken relishing links challenge of SDC Championship

Thomas Aiken relishing links challenge of SDC Championship

Thomas Aiken heads into this week’s SDC Championship well aware that he’s in a new phase of his career and confident that the St Francis Links layout could reward the good momentum he’s been building up over the past few months.

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It’s been a decade since Aiken last won on the DP World Tour in the Africa Open, which like this week’s event was also co-sanctioned with the Sunshine Tour. That tournament was also played in the Eastern Cape at East London Golf Club, a sweeping coastal golf course offering the same kind of challenge that Aiken enjoys.

He returns to the SDC Championship having finished tied ninth here last year when England’s Matthew Baldwin won, and showing good form with finishes of tied seventh, 12th and tied 23rd in three of his last five events on the Sunshine Tour, European Challenge Tour and DP World Tour.

“It’s always nice to play back in South Africa. The momentum has been heading in the right direction and I feel like I’ve been playing really good golf the last six months. I feel like I’ve played better golf now than I’ve played in my entire career,” said Aiken.

The 40-year-old, a three-time winner on the DP World Tour and an eight-time winner on the Sunshine Tour, climbed as high as 73rd on the Official World Golf Rankings before a tough few years where a few personal matters shortly before the global Covid pandemic led to a prolonged absence from the game.

“It’s been an interesting few years down to circumstances that weren’t within my control. When you don’t play competitively you lose that fine competitive edge. It’s a challenging one when you get into your 40s and the game is getting younger and younger. But I love playing the game and I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I could win. Every week I feel like I have a good chance at winning. But it is an interesting crossroads in my life.”

St Francis Links is certainly the kind of golf course Aiken thrives on, and he’s looking forward to the challenge of this Jack Nicklaus-designed course.

“I always love playing at the coast and enjoy the challenge of playing in the wind. It puts an emphasis on good ball striking and I like that. St Francis Links is a great golf course and I hope it plays a bit firm. It’s a great layout in the dunes here and there are a lot of holes where you have to think carefully about your second shot. It’s a thinker’s golf course rather than just a bomber’s course which suits me.”

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