This week, the DP World Tour heads to the South African seaside village of St Francis Bay for the first time ahead of the SDC Championship, which is co-sanctioned with the Sunshine Tour.
Tom McKibbin looks set to be the sole Irish representative in the field, with John Murphy eighth on the reserve list at the time of writing.
The Holywood rookie was solid if not spectacular in last week’s Magical Kenya Open, breaking par in all four rounds but never a real challenger at the top of the leaderboard. That being said, it wasn’t a course that would play to his advantage and it remains to be seen whether St. Francis’ Links, a par-72 that measure just shy of 7,200 yards will favour the powerful hitter as it’s location on the Eastern Cape makes it highly susceptible to strong winds.
The Sunshine Tour and DP World Tour have brought an international golf tournament to this Jack Nicklaus Signature Course for the first time in its history, and a course ranked fourth in South Africa has certainly caught the attention of this field. And so too the wind forecast for Thursday’s first round, which is predicting gusts of up to 65km/h.
“I think it’s one of the best golf courses in the country,” young South African Casey Jarvis said during Tuesday’s pro-am. He knows this course well, having finished second in the 2022 South African PGA Championship which was played here.
“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.”
Scotland’s Richie Ramsay was equally impressed with his first look at this golf course.
“The landscape around here is beautiful and I’m really impressed with the course. It’s a gorgeous piece of property. You can see that if you’ve played this course before you will have an advantage. I’ve always loved coming down here to this part of the world and I’ve been on holiday with my family here before.”
Ockie Strydom, a two-time winner on the DP World Tour this season, also has fond memories of this golf course where he finished second in a Sunshine Tour event last year.
“I’ve done well on this course in the past. I feel like this course owes me one and hopefully that’s this week. There are a lot of good players here, but we’ve all got the same job – to keep it low and under the wind.”
The wind can certainly turn this golf course into a proper test this week, and most of the field are already bracing themselves for the challenge it will bring on Thursday.
“I’ve been watching the wind forecast, and especially the predictions for Thursday. You can definitely see the course has been built for a breeze and it’s no secret that this part of the country has wind that will flatten flagsticks. The wind will certainly change how this course plays. But I have to commend the greenkeeping staff here because it’s in fantastic condition considering they’ve been in a long drought in this region,” said Brandon Stone.
“This is a great golf course, but it all depends on the conditions. I’m hoping for a bit of wind to test us all,” added Shaun Norris.
McKibbin will tee off at 12:30 PM local time (10:30 AM Irish time) alongside homegrown duo Jacques Blaauw and Martin Rowher.
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