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2024 SDC Championship Preview, Picks & Analysis

By: | Mon 26 Feb 2024

England's Matthew Baldwin proved you should never give up on your dreams 12 months ago when he claimed his first DP World Tour title at the 200th attempt in winning the SDC Championship in South Africa by seven shots.

The 37-year-old carded a four-under 68 in the final round to finish well clear of second-placed Adri Arnaus of Spain. It capped a remarkable comeback for Baldwin, who lost his tour card in 2016 after a succession of injuries.

"It's been a tough few years, so obviously to get the win means absolutely everything," he said. "I can't process it right now, but it just means the world to me."

And Baldwin will be back to defend his title this week, with little to indicate that he has much chance of repeating that success. Apart from his victory in 2023 he managed just one other top 10, and this season has been little better.

Baldwin has split his time between the European Tour and Challenge Tour, which he first graduated from in 2011 courtesy of his win at the Fred Olsen Challenge de Espana. He enjoyed a superb rookie season on the European Tour in 2012, making the cut in both the US Open and the Open Championship.

He started playing golf aged three when his grandfather took him to a local field to hit balls and played for England Boys for two years, and was part of the Great Britain and Ireland team that won the Jacques Leglise Trophy in 2004. Baldwin spent three years in the England elite squad and took part in the Home Internationals in 2007 before turning professional the following year.

Matthew Baldwin

(Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)

His grandfather, Ronald Ryder, represented England and Great Britain at rugby league, making his name at Warrington. But what will give hope to many in the field is that this time last year Matthieu Pavon was finishing eighth. The Frenchman is now plying his trade on the PGA Tour and is playing like a man transformed with a sensational victory and a near-miss at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Pavon has gone from journeyman status to world-class.

Antoine Rozner is another French golfer who has been showing some fine form of late. He was tied sixth at the Qatar Masters, tied 12th at the Bahrain Championship, tied 16th at the Dubai Desert Classic and also played well at both the Dubai Invitational and Mauritius Open. He also knows how to win, having done so three times on the DP World Tour and twice on the Challenge Tour.

Scotland’s Ewen Ferguson quite clearly has the game to follow in Pavon’s footsteps. He made a decent fist of his Qatar Masters title defence and will feel ready to claim his third DP World Tour title. He will return here with some positive memories, having finished in a tie for third in this tournament last year. I remain utterly convinced that Ferguson possesses all the tools to go on and become a serious force in this sport.

Tom McKibbin won the Porsche European Open in 2023 but would have been disappointed with his form for the rest of the season. However, he has made an encouraging start to the new campaign, finishing tied 25th at the Dubai Invitational, tied 14th at the Dubai Desert Classic, tied 16th at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship and fourth at the Qatar Masters. The 21-year-old is a hugely impressive young man with a big future ahead of him.

I have been a trifle surprised by the form of Thriston Lawrence. Yes, he finished in a tie for second place at the Dubai Invitational but it has all been pretty unimpressive apart from that. The South African is a four-time DP World Tour winner who is a wonderful ball striker, and I expect him to be back in the mix this week.

The Course:

St Francis Links was designed by Jack Nicklaus and opened in in 2007. He described it as one of the best courses he has put his name to - and that is saying something. It is a par 72 and measures 7,192 yards.

Form Guide:

Tom McKibbin is desperate to add to his Porsche European Open victory and has made a fine start to 2024, seemingly improving with every passing week. Thriston Lawrence has the potential to be a world-class player and already has a runner-up finish to his credit in 2024.

To Win:

Tom McKibbin. Simply wonderful temperament

Each Way:

Thriston Lawrence. Knows how to win

Each Way:

Antoine Rozner. In form

Five to Follow:

Tom McKibbin. Looking for that second success

Thriston Lawrence. Big hitter

Antoine Rozner. Streaky putter

Ewen Ferguson. Mercurial talent

Jordan Smith. Glorious swing

Five Outsiders to Watch:

JC Ritchie. Sunshine Tour stalwart

Darren Fichardt. One of the tour’s biggest hitters

Andy Sullivan. Has lost his way somewhat

Andrew Johnston. Beef back on the menu

Jonas Blixt. How the mighty have fallen

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Tags: Golf Previews european tour dp world tour

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