Ewen Ferguson
Ewen Ferguson

Ben Coley's golf betting tips: SDC Championship preview and best bets

Ewen Ferguson is one of two young talents who top Ben Coley's staking plan for the SDC Championship, as the DP World Tour returns to South Africa.

Golf betting tips: SDC Championship

3pts win Ewen Ferguson at 20/1 (Unibet)

3pts win Tom McKibbin at 20/1 (General)

1.5pts e.w. Richie Ramsay at 60/1 (William Hill 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

1pt e.w. Daniel Brown at 66/1 (BoyleSports 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Ricardo Gouveia at 150/1 (General 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

Sky Bet odds | Paddy Power | Betfair Sportsbook

When course designer Jack Nicklaus attended a Q&A to discuss the opening of St Francis Links back in 2006, someone mentioned a comment he'd made the previous day.

"You said last night that this was the best course you've done, were you just being nice or...?"

"I didn't say that," interrupted Nicklaus, who paused dramatically before adding: "I said this may be the best golf course I've ever seen. That's different."

Let me shock you: St Francis Links is not the best golf course Mr Nicklaus has seen. And it may not even fully adhere to the description of links – after all, we're days removed from the Challenge Tour event at Humewood, which some define as the one true links course in the whole of South Africa.

What we can agree on is that this course, which I'll call a modern links, provided a serious test when it first hosted an event at this level last spring. Matthew Baldwin, whose golfing education took place on the west coast of England, was the only man to break par each day and in the end won by seven in 18-under.

The impact of the weather and more specifically the wind is always vital around exposed courses such as this one. Thursday last year yielded just eight sub-70 rounds; Friday almost 40 of them. And what strikes me about the leaderboard is that, in the end, accuracy was a vital component, just as it was in last week's Kenya Open but for different reasons.

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As well as Baldwin, players like Jens Dantorp, Kris Johannesen, Thomas Aiken and John Catlin are all fairway-finders and of the top 13 DP World Tour players on the final leaderboard, 11 ended the season ranked inside the top 20 percent for driving accuracy. That's pretty conclusive as far as what last year's renewal demanded. The question is are we expecting more of the same?

With wind forecast to howl on Thursday and only gradually decrease thereafter, my suggestion is yes. As such, the search for this week's winner begins with accurate drivers who hit quality approaches. And with Baldwin, Dantorp and Matthieu Pavon all having top-five finishes in the Scottish Open to their names, some proper links form certainly carries a degree of value.

Split stakes on accurate youngsters

This formula helps reduce the eight players priced between 16 and 22/1 to two, so I'll suggest splitting stakes win-only on TOM MCKIBBIN and EWEN FERGUSON.

For one so powerful, McKibbin's accuracy of late has been remarkable. He'd ranked inside the top 10 for fairways in eight successive appearances prior to the Qatar Masters last time, where he was still a respectable 17th.

Contending there for the second time in the space of six months and 14th in the Dunhill Links previously, McKibbin has already shown us some potentially correlating form and hailing from the same golf club as Rory McIlroy, he should have no excuses in the anticipated conditions.

Tom McKibbin should see this as a big opportunity
Tom McKibbin should see this as a big opportunity

He's proved to be at home in South Africa, too, his first two professional top-10s coming here, and his debut at St Francis Links saw him climb to 18th despite an opening 76 in the worst of the weather. For the remainder of the week, he played better than almost everyone bar Baldwin, with just a couple of exceptions.

The case for McKibbin is straightforward and therefore brief and having been on him the last twice, and seen him play well enough to win either event, one of the potential stars of the circuit is well worth sticking with.

Ferguson is another with a strong record in South Africa and while he's much shorter in the betting than when hitting the frame for us last year, finishing third, his form merits that.

Back then we were taking a chance as he'd been without a top-25 finish in six starts to kick off 2023, whereas this time he has four in five appearances including when contending in Qatar and Kenya in his last two.

Putting improvements last week have to go down as encouraging and there's absolutely no doubt that he fits the profile otherwise, as one of the most precise drivers on the DP World Tour, whose approach play can be top-class.

Indeed Ferguson ranked first among this field in strokes-gained approach last season as well as fourth for fairways, while he and McKibbin are both inside the top 10 in the latter category at this early stage of the 2024 campaign.

There's very little to split the octet at the head of the betting but around a course like this, McKibbin and Ferguson ought to be promoted up the list. There are others who are wild off the tee, some who lack form in the wind, but these two are both accurate and likely to relish what lies ahead.

Joost Luiten will no doubt take inspiration from Darius van Driel's victory in Kenya but his short-game remains a concern and the only other player of interest at less than 50/1 was Adrian Otaegui, back in form last week and a winner on a modern links in Scotland.

That said, Muthaiga is just made for him whereas I've never felt he's one who likes genuinely rough weather by the coast, so having attracted a little support already he's easy enough to overlook at 33/1.

My preference is for RICHIE RAMSAY, whose first professional win came in South Africa.

It's his latest, though, that helps make the case, as it came at Hillside where yet again Ramsay showed what he can do when granted a test of accuracy and patience by the coast, winning impressively in the end.

Last summer's top-10 finishes in Belgium, Sweden and Denmark all came when his skills were accentuated, which is not often the case these days, and having been in the mix in good events either side of Christmas he doesn't look far away from that level once more.

Ramsay was 41st on his debut here last year but not only was he 10th at halfway, his weekend performance is easier to excuse when you consider that he'd been forced to withdraw from the Kenya Open due to illness and was still not quite feeling his best.

Having last missed a cut in the first week of September he's been playing to a consistently high level and it may only take the right conditions plus a small step up with his putter to make him a factor. We know he gets the first of these two criteria and he did at least putt well here last year.

Can Dan Brown crack the code?

Good friends DANIEL BROWN and Todd Clements won back-to-back last August and I could see both being a factor this week, with Brown rated the better bet.

Brown sat third through 54 holes in this event and was still in the battle for second place until dropping three shots over the closing four holes, but for which he might well have chased home Baldwin.

Third in Mauritius before Christmas is another nice form line with this in mind and as an accurate driver with a tidy short-game, he's a prime candidate to improve now the Middle East swing is behind us.

Brown's approach play was good in Qatar last time out and at seventh in driving accuracy last season, he has the right kind of game for this return to the scene of just his second DP World Tour top 10.

With five top-20s from 11 appearances in South Africa he's got plenty in his favour and while 61st in Doha might not scream winner-in-waiting, he did rank 15th in strokes-gained tee-to-green.

Typically an assured putter, that club has been up and down more recently but there's definite scope for improvement.

As for Clements he ranked second in strokes-gained approach last time out and has some form under exposed conditions, contending in the KLM Open last spring and winning at an inland links on the Challenge Tour.

He made the cut on his debut here when in generally poor form and with his ball-striking getting better by the week, there could be plenty more to come, but I'd rather side with Brown's superior short-game on this occasion.

Go for Gouveia at big price

Ashun Wu is a former winner of the KLM Open who looks back in-form, has a proven record in South Africa and has just about doubled in price from last week so he's certainly respected along with Jason Scrivener, who is a bit frustrating but will certainly be favoured by this sort of test.

However my final selection is RICARDO GOUVEIA, who flew home with a six-under 65 in Kenya and might just build on that here.

Gouveia isn't always the most accurate which would be my main worry, but his iron play is really good at the moment and I do think he's a player who enjoys dealing with the sort of breeze that's forecast.

He's been fifth at Dom Pedro, seventh in Mauritius, seventh too at Bernardus and Doha, eighth at HimmerLand and ninth at a miserable Walton Heath, all evidence in his favour, and his win at Al Mouj certainly demanded control of his ball in the wind.

Tidy around the greens and with some sneaky if unspectacular Scottish Open form to his name, the Portuguese could just be the type to run with whatever worked for him on Sunday and is preferred to Matteo Manassero, who certainly has the links form which would've helped find Baldwin a year ago.

Posted at 1800 GMT on 26/02/24

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