Martin stalking hat-trick at Leopard Creek

Spain’s Pablo Martin will be seeking a historic hat-trick in the Alfred Dunhill Championship when he returns as the defending champion at the Leopard Creek golf course this week.

Martin has dominated this event over the past two years, and made history last year when he became the championship’s first back-to-back winner.

In 2010 Martin won by two strokes on 11 under par over the trio of Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, Thorbjorn Olesen and Anthony Michael. And in 2009 he again beat Schwartzel by one stroke.

A hat-trick of titles at Leopard Creek would give Martin another first in his career. The affable Spaniard made European Tour history when he became the first amateur to win a Tour event in the 2007 Estoril Open de Portugal.

As a 17-year-old he also became the first amateur to lead a European Tour event through 54 holes in the Canaris Open de Espana in 2003. He went on to finish 22nd.

And he proved his ability as a player for the big stage when he made his professional debut in the 2007 US Open at Oakmont, where he finished 30th.

This year, Martin’s season on the European Tour has been highlighted by a finish of second in the Volvo China Open in April and fourth in the Nordea Masters in July.

With South Africa’s Schwartzel away competing for the International Team in the Presidents Cup in Australia, the South African challenge will most likely be led by rising European Tour stars George Coetzee, Jaco van Zyl and Thomas Aiken, as well as Asian Tour campaigner Jbe’ Kruger.

Coetzee and Van Zyl will head to Leopard Creek on the back of their most successful international seasons to date, with both enjoying a host of top-10s in Europe.

Aiken tees it up as a European Tour winner this year already following his triumph in the Open de Espana. He also has an impressive record in the Alfred Dunhill Championship, finishing fifth last year and tied fourth in 2008.

Kruger has had a successful season on the Asian Tour including six top-ten finishes.

The €1-million Alfred Dunhill Championship is the first of four tournaments co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and European Tour.

Tickets for the tournament are only available at Leopard Creek during the week of the tournament.

By Michael Vlismas

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