Volvo China Open 2013
The European Tour stays in Asia for one more week before heading back to Europe and this week is the turn of China to host. Located in Tianjin, the Binhai Lake Golf Club was only used for this tournament last year, so people will still be relatively unfamiliar with the setup. The course plays 7,667 yards and is without doubt one for the bigger hitters out there. Only 1 person in the top 13 last year drove the ball less than 288 yards, and that man was Francesco Molinari. And none of their driving accuracies were impressive. When there is no wind on this links course, it becomes exposed. Birdies can be found everywhere, Branden Grace’s -21 last year showed this. It is also a course for GIR, if you’re not finding those greens, you won’t have a chance. 3 of the top 5 last year ranked 1, 3 and 5 for GIR %.
We have taken into account people’s performance here last year, current form but most importantly for us, distance off the tee. We will be very surprised if a ‘shot-maker’ wins this, which undoubtedly they will now after making that statement. The weather this week favours the early starters on day 1. Wind is around for the latter part of that day and also at the beginning of day 2. So someone who can cope in winds would also be preferable.
Whilst all the hype surrounds 14 year old Guan Tianlang, there will be a new kid on the block this week. 12 year old Ye Wocheng shot a -2 in the Western China Qualifier to book himself a place in the field this week. We won’t be backing him sadly, but definitely keep an eye out for him. China are certainly going to be a force to be reckoned with in years to come! Wocheng will also beat the record set by his compatriot Tianlang in becoming the youngest player to ever have played on the tour, Guan set that record as a 13 year old in this event last year. Can he break another record and make the cut?
It’s been a poor couple of weeks for us in truth since our win on Adam Scott at the Masters, so we’ll be really trying for a big few days this week!
Pablo Larrazabal (25/1 Various)
Now it’s sometimes hard to not let previous backing of players hinder your judgement, and with Pablo we have decided we simply cannot ignore him this week. After all, he is one of our favourite players, often called a ‘young Seve’. After a rare blip 2 weeks ago, the Spaniard produced another great display of golf to get his 3rd top 6 in 4 events last week. He is averaging over 290 yards off the tee which is perfect whilst he finds himself 19th in GIR% on the tour this year. Last year in his T18 finish here, Pablo ranked 4th in GIR% and was driving the ball 293 yards, so he definitely has a feel for this place. Pablo certainly wasn’t coming into this playing as good as he is now either. The Spaniard also plays very well in wind, which could be crucial going into the last day. All that has been missing this year is that elusive win and in many ways you would understand if he was favourite for this. At 25/1 you can’t go wrong this week with such a great talent.
Stephen Gallacher (33/1 Various)
We were very close to backing the man from Scotland last week and he subsequently turned in a 6th place finish. Since winning his 2nd European Tour title in February this year, Stephen has somewhat gone off the boil. Till last week, he hadn’t recorded a top 20 finish since. But there had been signs in recent weeks that his top game was back, and last week proved that! He was 8th in driving distance and 9th in GIR% at the Ballantine’s. You will also be surprised to know Gallacher drives the ball on average 296 yards off the tee this year, which will be vital around here. He is also 39th for GIR% on the tour this year. The Scot did miss the cut here last year, but looking back he was going through a pretty poor patch and he will be a different animal this year. 33/1 for a winner on tour this year is good value and be sure to take advantage of it.
Paul Waring (100/1 Coral)
Not often is our 3rd pick a 100/1 shot, but this week we really like Paul Waring. Paul has not missed a cut since the start of February and has been quietly playing some really good golf. His last two starts on the European Tour have been a T15 at the Trophee Hassan and a T4 at the Open De Espana, both on very tricky courses. Waring had been hampered by injury for 2011 and a lot of 2012, hence why he fell off the radar for some time. But after sorting himself out, the Englishman enjoyed a T10 at the Irish Open and the same result at the Johnnie Walker Championship at the back end of 2012. He is currently competing in 2013 on a medical extension. Before his injury, Waring did manage a T19 at the Open Championship, so he definitely has some credentials. Waring did not play here last year because of the injury, but he picks and chooses the course he feels he will play better on. This year Waring has averaged 299 yards off the tee! And combine that with 39th in GIR%, it is hard to see why he is such high odds. His putting does leave a little to be desired, but if he’s hitting the ball so far, he will be only using wedges into the greens. Definitely worth a punt.
Matthew Baldwin (80/1 Coral)
Another rarity at DownThe18th is backing more than 1 Englishman in a week! But Baldwin is another man we like the look of this week. He was round 1 leader last week at the Ballantine’s but tailed off slowly to eventually end up 58th. It shows his game is there at the moment, just needs to add that consistency. 5 weeks ago, Baldwin recorded a 5th place finish at the Trophee Hassan which also shows he can place highly. Like our other picks, Baldwin can strike a long ball, averaging 288 yards off the tee. This is a great improvement to when he finished T14 here last year. The Englishman was only averaging 274 yards here last year, so that extra bit of length could be the key to pushing on this year. And after all, T14 still wasn’t bad considering the distance he was driving. He also ranked 6th in GIR% that week. Again at such high odds, he’s another one you can’t ignore.
Julien Quesne (80/1 Ladbrokes)
Our 3rd man at big odds this week is the Frenchman Quesne. He’s been turning in some great performances this year, two 9th place finishes in his last 5 tournaments and only 1 missed cut is good going. He did miss the cut last week, but it was on a course that has never suited his game. His 11th place finish here last year is very promising, he also ranked 4th in driving distance that week averaging 290 yards off the tee. This year he is averaging 292 yards off the tee, again vital if you’re going to do well round here. As well as distance, he is very accurate too. Not essential, but will be very helpful when trying to get as many birdies as you can. He also ranks 53rd in GIR%. This slot was a very, very close call between the Frenchman and Magnuss A Carlsson, another very big hitter. We’re not backing him this week, but definitely one who can do well here. We favoured Quesne because of his performance around this course last year. Julien claimed his maiden European Tour victory in 2012, so will definitely be looking to push on in an event that will suit him.
Quick mention: Our US Open 2013 preview will be up on the website within the next 2 weeks, so watch this space! Hoping to build on our win at the Masters in the year’s 2nd major