No runaway this time, Charl

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Defending champion Charl Schwartzel can produce a long list of reasons why the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek this week is one of his big favourites.

Apart from the fact that Johann Rupert’s highly exclusive bush veld golf club, located on the Crocodile River beside the famed Kruger National Park, just happens to boast one of Schwartzel’s “favourite courses in the whole world”, it also happens to hold some great memories for him.

And that’s not only because he won the first of his eight European Tour titles here in 2005.

It’s also because of the stunning manner in which he engineered his second triumph at Leopard Creek last year.

Coming off an 11-shot win in the Thailand Open and in some of the hottest form of his life, the 29-year-old, 2011 Masters Champion blazed home to a 12-shot victory in the Dunhill to record the third-largest winning margin in European Tour history.

It’s no wonder, then, that he said: “I think about Leopard Creek the whole time; it’s probably my favourite tournament of the year. I’m always really excited to go back, and especially this year as I’ll be defending my title.

“It’s one of my favourite courses in the whole world, and it treated me pretty well last year. I’ve always felt very comfortable around there in the past, so hopefully that can continue this week – although I don’t expect to win by 12 shots again!”

Indeed, winning this week is not likely to be all that easy – even though the bookmakers have posted him as a strong Tournament favourite at 3/1 with fellow South African Richard Sterne next best at around 12/1 and England’s Ross Fisher way behind that at around 22/1 in third place.

This partly because the field is no pushover, including as it does South African stalwarts like other former winners Sterne and Garth Mulroy, George Coetzee and Hennie Otto, US PGA Tour invitee Brendon de Jongh and British and European invaders like Fisher, Danny Willett, Scott Jamieson, Simon Dyson, Alejandro Canizares and Morten Orum Madsen, the young Dane who stepped up at Glendower last week and conquered Schwartzel and an equally strong local contingent at the South African Open

But also because Schwartzel is not carrying anything like the same kind of indomitable form he was in at this time last year.

By his own high standards, he has had a relatively quiet year and while he did lead for two rounds in last week’s South African Open, a final-round, twin-disaster in the form of a triple and a double bogey killed his hopes of claiming a trophy that carries the names of almost all of South Africa’s greatest players including those of Bobby Locke, Gary Player, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen.

THE BOOKMAKERS’ TOP 20

Here were the top 20 favourites being quoted by Sky Bet on Tuesday morning*.

Charl Schwartzel 7/2
Richard Sterne 12/1
Ross Fisher 22/1
George Coetzee 22/1
Brendon De Jonge 25/1
Hennie Otto 22/1
Garth Mulroy 25/1
Alejandro Canizares 30/1
Jaco van Zyl 35/1
Morten Orum Madsen 45/1
Thomas Aiken 40/1
Jbe Kruger 40/1
Danny Willett 50/1
Darren Fichardt 50/1
Scott Jamieson 50/1
Maximilian Kieffer 50/1
Tom Lewis 55/1
Justin Walters 60/1
Andrea Pavan 45/1
Johan Carlsson 50/1
Simon Dyson 55/1.

* For all the bookmakers latest odds you should go to Oddschecker.com

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