By Brian Keogh
Jonathan Caldwell. Photo by Golffile
Clandeboye's Jonathan Caldwell has enjoyed a memorable return to the European Tour after an 11-year absence, and he can still dream of making the Race to Dubai finale with just two regular-season events remaining.
The former Walker Cup star (36) lies 103rd in the Race to Dubai after racking up three top-tens and five top 20 finishes from 19 starts.
He's won €156,125, but he knows that a top-two finish in this week's Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at Leopard Creek or next week's South African Open could catapult him into the Top 60 who will contest the season-ending, $8 million DP World Tour Championship in Dubai from December 10-13.
His plan for the past six weeks has been to take things one step at a time and not “get ahead of myself," but while he has good reason to be optimistic at Leopard Creek having tied for 14th behind Pablo Larrazábal on his return to European Tour action last December, the course will play very differently this time.
“I’m feeling good about the week, I had a pretty decent week last week,” Caldwell said. “I’m driving the ball well and doing pretty decent. Last year I was 14th and it was playing very difficult because the rough was up and the greens were firm and the whole golf course was firm.
“So far this week it was soft at the start but has gradually gotten a little bit firmer. Bu the rough is down this year so I think scoring is going to be much better. Really there’s a premium on driving the ball straight as always around here and missing in the correct spots on the these slopey and fast greens.”
Larrazábal battled through intense heat, overcoming severe blisters to claim his fifth European Tour win at a spectacular venue, teeming with wildlife on the edge of the vast Kruger National Park.
"It was special the way everything happened last year in this place that I call paradise," Larrazábal said. "Everything I love in life is here. The best in nature and the best golf course makes Leopard Creek a dream place for me."
Ardglass' Cormac Sharvin also tees it up in a strong field featuring a strong home challenge from Joburg Open runner-up Wilco Nienaber, recent European Tour winners Garrick Higgo and George Coetzee, 2020 Masters debutant Christiaan Bezuidenhout and former Alfred Dunhill Championship winner Brandon Stone.