Paul Williams

Paul Williams' SDC Championship Tips 2024

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A best of the day Saturday 65 catapulted our 66/1 shot Ashun Wu into the conversation last week in Kenya, however that was as good as it got sadly as Sunday didn’t go remotely to plan and Darius van Driel ultimately secured his maiden DP World Tour title in impressive style at pre-event prices of up to 80/1.

We move on and the DP World Tour heads to South Africa for a fortnight of co-sanctioned events alongside the Sunshine Tour. The SDC Championship (Skills Development Corporation – a South African education and training business) takes us to St Francis Links for the second year in succession first, before we return to Glendower Golf Club in Johannesburg for the Jonsson Workwear Open next week.

Similar to last week there’s very little to separate the players at the top of the market, with Thriston Lawrence, Zander Lombard, Ewen Ferguson and Rikuya Hoshino all vying for favouritism at around 16/1, with the likes of Antoine Rozner, Tom McKibbin, Jordan Smith and Keita Nakajima following just behind in the betting.

Before we go into the detail surrounding the SDC Championship, we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System as The Masters approaches. Welcome and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published every Tuesday of the golfing calendar), the Steve Bamford Golf Channel on YouTube and our hugely popular, 6,300 strong, private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

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Course Overview. St Francis Links is a Jack Nicklaus Signature course set just off the coast of St Francis Bay in one of the southernmost points of South Africa, and it’s a layout that we saw on the DP World Tour for the first time last year.

Stretching to 7,192 yards for its par of 72, a regular setup of 10 par 4s and 4 each of the par 3s and par 5s will greet the players this week, with a variety of hole lengths to keep things interesting. 3 sub-400 yard par 4s will present scoring opportunities to the players, as will the 533 yard par-5 13th, however this course has proven to be no pushover in the past when it’s hosted Sunshine Tour events which form the majority of this week’s course stats.

Consistently ranked inside the top-10 for South African golf courses, St Francis Links was forged from the natural surroundings with the layout weaving around the dunes that adorned the area long before the golf course was conceived. Heavy bunkering, penal rough, bushes, and water hazards towards the end of the round present the biggest challenges to players who’ll need to use a variety of clubs and shot types to navigate successfully around this track. The 18 holes are described in more detail here.

sdc championship tips

Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s SDC Championship that will help to shape a view on players who may go well this week.

Course form is from the various Sunshine Tour events held here at St Francis Links since 2007, including 2 events in 2022 and another in 2023, plus of course last year’s inaugural SDC Championship: Current Form | Course Form | First Round Leader Stats | Combined Stats.

Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.

Event Winners. 2023: Matthew Baldwin, 140/1, -18.

Course Winners (Sunshine Tour). 2023: Rupert Kaminski, -7; 2022: George Coetzee, -15; 2022: Ruan Korb, -13 (54 holes); 2021: Dean Burmester, -17; 2018: Alex Haindl, -12 (54 holes); 2017: Doug McGuigan, -13 (54 holes); 2016: Mark Williams, -11 (54 holes); 2015: Christiaan Basson, -11 (54 holes); 2014: Keith Horne, -9 (54 holes); 2013: JJ Senekal, -4 (54 holes); 2008: Jaco van Zyl, -2 (54 holes); 2007: Titch Moore, -7 (54 holes).

Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for the area is here.

The tournament should enjoy warm (mid- to high-70s Fahrenheit) and dry conditions throughout the 4 days. The wind will be the main feature this week, with 30mph gusts expected on Thursday as well as breezy periods for the other three days, with 20-25mph gusts possible in the afternoons.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors. In terms of raw player statistics at St Francis Links, we do have some patchy stats available from the Sunshine Tour events held here:

  • 2023: Rupert Kaminski (-7). 66.7% fairways (43rd), 74.1% greens in regulation (9th), 28.6% scrambling (48th), 1.70 putts per GIR (13th).
  • 2022: George Coetzee (-15). 75.6% fairways (19th), 64.8% greens in regulation (31st), 63.2% scrambling (3rd), 1.63 putts per GIR (5th).
  • 2022: Ruan Korb (-13). 71.4% fairways (28th), 77.8% greens in regulation (5th), 50% scrambling (12th), 1.62 putts per GIR (6th).
  • 2021: Dean Burmester (-17). 70.9% fairways (37th), 79.2% greens in regulation (4th), 46.7% scrambling (18th), 1.70 putts per GIR (20th).
  • 2018: Alex Haindl (-12). 69.0% fairways (25th), 87.0% greens in regulation (1st), 57.1% scrambling (6th).
  • 2017: Doug McGuigan (-15). 66.7% fairways (39th), 75.9% greens in regulation (12th), 69.2% scrambling (2nd).
  • 2016: Mark Williams (-11). 66.7% fairways (38th), 74.1% greens in regulation (7th), 50% scrambling (9th).
  • 2015: Christiaan Basson (-11). 83.3% fairways (8th), 74.1% greens in regulation (14th), 71.4% scrambling (1st)
  • 2014: Keith Horne (-9). 82.1% fairways (15th), 83.3% greens in regulation (2nd), 66.7% scrambling (1st).
  • 2013: JJ Senekal (-4). 71.4% fairways (28th), 72.2% greens in regulation (7th), 26.7% scrambling (34th).

On top of those results, we also have last year’s SDC Championship to look at:

  • 2023: Matthew Baldwin (-18). 331 yards (7th), 85.7% fairways (2nd), 77.8% greens in regulation (8th), 62.5% scrambling (10th), 1.61 putts per GIR (3rd).

Fairways are wide here and even the most flagrant players from off the tee were finding the short grass two-thirds of the time, making this a second shot golf course. From there it’s either a case of maximise greens in regulation or perform well on and around the greens, with the most consistent stat across the renewals being scrambling.

Strokes Gained: The normal caveats apply when looking at Strokes Gained stats from these co-sanctioned affairs and, as ever, numbers should be taken with a pinch of salt. Nevertheless, last year’s winner fits the mould with a field-leading Tee to Green performance plus impressive stats on and around the greens:

  • Matthew Baldwin: T: 3rd; A: 14th 3; T2G: 1st; ATG: 9th; P: 5th.

Key: T: SG Off the Tee; A; SG Approach; T2G: SG Tee to Green; ATG: SG Around the Green; P: SG Putting.

Incoming Form. The incoming form of the last 13 winners here at St Francis Links is as follows:

  • 2023: Rupert Kaminski: 11/MC/4/28/MC/17/MC/MC/6/4/12/28
  • 2023 (DPWT): Matthew Baldwin: MC/3/27/4/MC/MC/32/23/MC/MC/30/60
  • 2022: George Coetzee: MC/36/MC/WD/WD/1/16/22/32/MC/3/17
  • 2022: Ruan Korb: MC/MC/MC/MC/MC/8/41/2/MC/35/MC
  • 2021: Dean Burmester: 6/59/70/MC/35/40/6/40/34/30/MC/7
  • 2018: Alex Haindl: 12/16/3/4/33/25/MC/2/12/5/5/MC
  • 2017: Doug McGuigan: 26/MC/6/33/1/MC/30/20/21/19/19/39
  • 2016: Mark Williams:MC/17/4/MC/26/29/6/7/MC/28/24/35
  • 2015: Christiaan Basson: 8/18/MC/MC/44/7/10/9/27/MC/MC/8
  • 2014: Keith Horne: 54/9/2/15/3/MC/24/9/MC/MC/4/8
  • 2013: JJ Senekal: MC/37/MC/MC/7/MC/31/MC/MC/6/31/39
  • 2008: Jaco van Zyl: MC/MC/14/MC/MC/4/7/2/5/15/11/2
  • 2007: Titch Moore: WD/MC/MC/9/MC/16/38/38/17/10/5/9

Looking at last year’s SDC Championship, eventual winner Matthew Baldwin would have been hard to find on current form alone with immediate finishes of MC/MC/30/60, however prior to that he’d finished 23rd at Ras Al Khaimah having sat inside the top 10 at halfway.

2023 Sunshine Tour PGA Championship winner Rupert Kaminski had a little more immediate form with a pair of top-6 finishes in his previous 4 outings and once again fits the trend that every winner here had at least 1 top-10 finish in their last 9 starts and 2 top-10 finishes in their last 11 starts, regardless of the level.

A modern links with wind in play helps narrow the field a little this week, with an emphasis on quality ball-striking to scythe through the wind as well as scrambling when greens are inevitably missed looking like key attributes from our likely contenders.

My Final SDC Championship tips are as follows:

Tom McKibbin 3pts EW 18/1 (8EW, 1/5) with bet365

It’s the same old names at the top of the betting board this week with the bookies struggling to split the likes of Zander Lombard, Thriston Lawrence, Ewen Ferguson and Rikuya Hoshino when it comes to determining favouritism here at St Francis Links.

Hoshino has a recent win, whilst Lawrence and Ferguson have sufficient winning history to suggest that another success here isn’t out of the question, whereas Lombard continues to feature at the top end of low-grade leaderboards without getting over the line. For me though the most likely winner resides just below the leading quartet in the market and that’s Tom McKibbin.

I backed the talented Northern Irishman on his last start in Qatar with the caveat that he’d need to putt a little better than his norm to take the title. In the end the Belfast boy finished just the right side of Strokes Gained positive with the flat stick on the week, however that was only good enough for a 4th place finish overall and 3 shots shy of the aforementioned Rikuya Hoshino.

Of course a similar equation is likely this week in South Africa, however history here suggests that GIR and Scrambling may be more critical than purely a hot week with the putter and that brings the 21 year-old very much into the conversation.

16th on another task in the vicinity of the coast in Ras Al Khaimah at the end of January was fuelled by ranking 2nd for GIR and 10th for Scrambling, and Tom exactly reversed those metrics last time out at Doha Golf Club to suggest that both aspects of his game are in great shape right now.

Having played his formative golf at Holywood Golf Club on the Northern Irish coast whilst looking to emulate that club’s more decorated member Rory McIlroy, McKibbin will have played in every conceivable type of condition that a links course can throw at you and he’ll be more than comfortable on this week’s test, an assertion that’s backed up by a debut 18th place finish here last year.

An opening round of 76 was the main reason that McKibbin wasn’t closer to the lead 12 months ago, however a 65 on Friday largely corrected that and with a more positive start this year I can see him seriously contending for a second DP World Tour title here this week. RESULT: T12

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Niklas Norgaard 1.5pts EW 40/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

Unlike many other South African courses that the DP World Tour frequents, St Francis Bay will play its full 7,200 yards at sea level and that brings the longer hitters into the conversation, and few hit it further than Niklas Norgaard Moller.

Last year’s winner here at St Francis Links, Matthew Baldwin, averaged 331 yards from off the tee and whilst I’m not going to suggest that all-out power is the be-all and end-all here on the South African coast, there’s enough evidence from the Sunshine Tour events held here to assert that those who can control their ball flight whilst hitting it a long way can prosper here, even when it’s breezy.

To convince ourselves that the Dane can handle a bit of wind we need look no further than the Bahrain Masters earlier this month where Norgaard eventually finished 8th. Played in a fairly stiff breeze for the most part, the 31 year-old ranked 2nd for both SG Off the Tee and SG Approach, as well as 5th for SG Tee to Green. That’s enough evidence for me to suggest he can adapt to this style of golf, an assertion backed up by his 7th place finish at the 2022 Alfred Dunhill Links which of course holds some parallels to this week’s task, minus the pro-am structure of course.

Niklas ranked 1st for GIR that week in Bahrain and followed that up by ranking 2nd on the same count at the Qatar Masters, and with the wide fairways here he could readily find himself in a position to contend for a first DP World Tour title.

23rd here last year on course debut was impressive given that Norgaard hit just 64% of greens in regulation and in many respects he hit the ground running here in all but his first round score of 76 which threatened to see him miss the cut badly. Strokes Gained positive in every category for the week is a fairly good indicator of how he took to the course once a second round 66 steadied the ship, and with his irons in a far better place right now, I can see him massively improving on that result and seriously contending here this week. RESULT: MC

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Todd Clements 1pt EW 110/1 (5EW, 1/4) with bet365

At a healthy each-way price, Todd Clements is an interesting runner this week.

The Colchester man has progressed impressively through the ranks following an amateur career that saw him win the English Amateur back in 2017. 2 wins on the Europro Tour circuit were followed by success at the 2022 Irish Challenge on Europe’s second tier, with that win coming by a full 6 strokes over headline selection Tom McKibbin at the K Club’s South Course, which is inland links in style.

The best was yet to come though for the 27 year-old who produced a magnificent round of 63 to hold off Matt Wallace in the final round of last year’s Czech Masters to win by a stroke and secure his breakthrough DP World Tour title.

Fast forward 6 months and although he’s yet to seriously contend on a Sunday since that effort in Prague, there are signs that he’s finding some form once again. After a couple of mid-division finishes in Dubai to start 2024, Todd showed improvement in Ras Al Khaimah, entering Sunday in 7th position before dropping away with a closing round of 73.

Having sat out last week’s Kenya Open, it’s the stats from his last outing in Qatar which really caught the eye and get him the nod here. 24th overall could once again have been far better were it not for a flat Sunday, however long game rankings of  2nd for SG Approach, 4th for SG Off the Tee and 5th for SG Tee to Green, plus 2nd for GIR in old money, suggests to me that he’s in the best control of the golf ball that he’s been since that aforementioned victory last August. He scrambled at 90% that week in Prague, so if he can retain his long game form and somehow produce a similar effort around the greens this week then he could be a real danger. RESULT: MC

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✅ ‘Each Way Extra’ promotion where you can choose between 3, 8, 10 or 12 places each way

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Ockie Strydom 1pt EW 200/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

Finally, if there’s one thing that you can say about betting on professional golf it’s that some players have the ability or knack to win, whereas others huff and puff for years on end without rewarding punters.

Backing perennial leaderboard lingerers who flatter to deceive, or backing a player like Ockie Strydom who misses plenty of cuts but then has the ability to pop up and win is the dilemma, and I’ll happily take a chance on the South African now that he’s back on home soil.

Victory at the 2022 Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek was the 39 year-old’s breakthrough win at DP World Tour level after years toiling on the feeder Tour circuit and then Sunshine Tour. A second win followed the following February in Singapore, holding off Sami Valimaki by a stroke, and just over a year on from that success perhaps he’s ripe to complete his hat-trick of successes at this level.

After a brief hint that he might retain some of his form with finishes of 4th at the Jonsson Workwear Open which is next week’s event, and the South African Tour Championship, Ockie did what Ockie does and went right off the boil, missing 15 of his next 18 cuts at all levels.

Bahrain in windy conditions at the start of February looked like a turning point though, finishing 4th that week in a rare (for him) Strokes Gained positive performance in every category, and he followed that up with 16th in Qatar where he ranked 5th for SG Approach which was his best effort on that count since that aforementioned win in Singapore.

In typical Style, Strydom has missed the cut the last two times that he’s ventured to St Francis Links, yet the time before that he finished runner-up at the Vodacom Origins event held here. As to what to expect this week, well it could be another missed cut, or it could be a win – at the price on offer I’ll take a chance on the latter. RESULT: T31

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✅ For further details read our Unibet sign up offer page
✅ Early odds available each week on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour
✅ Strong odds on First Round Leader market

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 12:45GMT 26.2.24 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.