Jonathan Caldwell and Cormac Sharvin return to action in South Africa this week for one of the most spectacular Tour stops anywhere in the world at Leopard Creek Country Club. The course, a vision of a banker built as an extension of the surrounding nature, can be as good as any safari with crocodiles, hippos, antelope, buffalo and elephants commonplace on the course or in the Kruger Park bordering the wild layout.
For Ireland’s competing duo, along with a star-studded field, it will be a welcomed respite from hotel rooms and Covid related conversation but there’s still a job to be done on the golf course with the prestigious Alfred Dunhill Championship up for grabs.
Clandeboye professional Caldwell enjoyed his visit to Malelane roughly this time last year where he recovered from an opening round 74 to grab a top-15 finish behind winner Pablo Larrazabal. Clearly a venue that fits the eye of the 36-year old, Caldwell enters this week off the back of a tied-35th result at the Joburg Open in a curtailed season where he’s banked top-10 finishes in Scotland and Italy.
Ardglass professional Sharvin had also boarded the flight to South Africa this time last year having just graduated from the money-list of the Challenge Tour to the European Tour proper. Perhaps the weight of that race to the main tour took more out of him than he thought with an opening round 80 at Leopard Creek proving too much to recover from as Sharvin missed the cut.
The 28-year old enters this week off the back of another weekend off in South Africa, this time in Joburg, but Sharvin’s game is trending in the right direction having broken 70 in nine of his last 12 rounds so he’ll be hopeful of a big showing amongst the big 5 around Kruger National Park.
Meanwhile, recent winner Robert MacIntyre said the tough test provided by Leopard Creek Country Club was one of his reasons for heading to South Africa amid the global pandemic. The 24-year-old Scot is back in action for the first time since claiming his maiden European Tour crown at the Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Showdown earlier in the month. He comes into the week sitting 28th in the Race to Dubai Rankings Presented by Rolex and sees this event as a great opportunity to improve his position.
MacIntyre said: “I’m feeling great. The game’s been in good shape for a wee while now. I’ve finally got the clubs to start working for me. The course is in great condition so I’m looking forward to it.
“I love the course, just the wild nature of it. It’s a tough test of golf. That’s one of the reasons I travelled out to play this week. It was a great decision. It’s just one of those weeks, you knuckle down, if you play well you’re going to be right in there.
“I’ve got a lot to play for just now so this week was a huge opportunity, especially knowing the golf course, and the changes have made it a lot tougher.”
Thursday’s tee times (Irish time)
- 9.20 – Jonathan Caldwell
- 11.10 – Cormac Sharvin