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A few days on from a memorable Open Championship, many players on the European circuit have decided to take a break, which has left a weak field for this weeks Russian Open.
It is the first time this event has been held on the European Tour and has been promoted from the Challenge Tour after 3 years on the secondary circuit.
Therefore the information we have and able to research has been limited. However from what we have found/know there are definitely a few players who stuck out straight away as perfect matches for this course.
The Tseleevo Golf & Polo Club is near Moscow and stands at the relatively long 7,491 yards par 72. It is Jack Nicklaus designed and opened in 2007.
The fairways are relatively wide, but with quite thick rough (same length as the Irish Open a few weeks ago), errors in judgement will be punished and the tree-lined parkland layout means plenty of players will be wandering through the woods looking for the lost balls! There are also plenty of water hazards surrounding the greens and fairways, which will need to be avoided.
Last year’s winner Alexandre Kaleka is a well known big hitter, as is Carlos Del Moral, who won the event 2 years ago. Therefore we do feel that longer hitters will have a major say – especially because rain is expected throughout the 4 days, softening up the fairways and making carry very important. But keeping the ball in play and finding greens will be so crucial.
It will be an interesting watch, but is playing second fiddle to the esteemed Canadian Open taking place across the pond – also the purse is very small and we just cannot fathom how Russia is hosting a European Tour event when there are far better candidates out there. Oh well, lets enjoy what we’ve been given!
Morten Ørum Madsen (30/1 888sport)
One of our original ‘Players to Watch’, Madsen has been making steady progress in his debut European Tour season. Three tops 10s is a solid return and finishing T28 at the US Open on an incredibly difficult course, proves his credentials as a future star in the game.
We have obviously backed him at 3-figure odds in past tournaments this year and now seeing him at odds as low as 28/30s is odd but makes complete sense when you look at the quality of field. The last time a field was similar to this on Tour was at the Madeira Islands Open (played alongside the Volvo World Matchplay) and he finished T2, two shots off the eventual winner Peter Uihlein.
His only problem is putting together 4 consistent rounds – there have been struggles this year, but at only 25 that will come in time and there will be no fears of playing with anyone of the top 20 in the world and this is why we feel he could really contend come Sunday evening.
He hasn’t missed a cut in 4 tournaments and interestingly finished T4 last year on this course, when it was part of the Challenge Tour. Having course form could be valuable, considering the bullish nature of some of the holes.
30th in driving accuracy and 34th in driving distance is a brutal combination and could really set him apart from the competitors around him.
We never thought we would be ‘tipping’ Madsen as our number one this year, but the blend of weak field and great Danish talent is too unique to ignore.
JB Hansen (33/1 various)
We are going with another young Dane for our 2nd choice – JB Hansen. He will be arriving into Moscow with confidence after recording his best finish of the season and in his European Tour career. T3 at the Scottish Open was a fantastic achievement and he looked imperious on the second day, carding a 65. In fact going into the final day he was only 2 shots behind Henrik Stenson, lying in a tie for second and he could have challenged eventual winner Phil Mickelson more had he produced a similar display to the previous rounds.
Just like his countryman Madsen, he finished T4 at this event last year and it is no surprise that he can also hit the ball a long way. His form has been woeful for most of the year so his stats do not jump out in particular, but he lies in 36th for driving distance, which is encouraging. But at the Scottish Open he was 14th in this category, 3rd for GIR, 3rd for putts per GIR and 7th for putts per round – if he isn’t feeling much more confident than he shouldn’t be playing this game!
He is another in a long line of Scandinavian talents to emerge from the lower tours and this is the sort of tournament where he could really announce himself on the world stage.
Chris Doak (40/1 Coral)
The ‘flat cap’ guru has attracted media attention for his wonderfully odd attire but we want to take it one step further and make you aware that the Scot could be one of the contenders this week.
He hasn’t had a great season but just like Hansen, will take confidence from a positive showing at the Scottish Open two weeks ago. After opening with two 66s, he went into the weekend in the lead, but two 73s put pay to any home win for the touring pro.
So, he will arrive Tseleevo Golf Club feeling good whilst knowing that this is a course which suits his abilities and has warranted solid finished before. Last year he finished T4 and the year before he was T9, which is very encouraging.
The field is only marginally stronger than what it would have been last year and there is no reason Doaky can’t challenge. 20th in driving accuracy and 74th in driving distance are reminders that off the tee he could be dangerous.
Plus, we are DYING to know whether he would keep the cap on while lifting a trophy.
Scott Henry (100/1 various)
Admittedly we have struggled to find value at the higher end of the odds market, but one player who does look interesting is Scott Henry. The Scot is in his debut year on the European Tour and has struggled mostly throughout the year. He has however not missed a cut in his last 3 events and has experience on the course, finishing T58 last year whilst plying his trade on the Challenge Tour.
He did win last year at the Kazakhstan Open, so has the ability to finish off good performances, but it is the fact he lies in 3rd for driving distance that excites us heavily. If he can hit the ball that far he will be at a major advantage and with rain expected, the longer hitters will come to the fore (no pun intended).
A fascinating outsider and certainly one to look out for!
Prom Meesawat (175/1 Bet365)
The big Thai golfer has caught our attention before, finishing T6 at the Avantha Masters last year and playing superbly on the Asian Tour throughout 2012.
He is a supremely talented golfer and one of his country’s top athletes (depending on how you describe the word ‘athlete’). His form this season on the European Tour has been uninspiring – hence his odds, but he was 2nd in his last outing on the ASEAN PGA Tour. The Singha Hua Hin Open was actually won Phachara Khongwatmai, a 14-year old amateur who became the youngest player ever to win a professional event.
He is not known as a long hitter, but rarely strays into trouble – 53rd in driving accuracy and considering he is 39th for putts per round and 52nd in putts per GIR, he does seem like a useful outsider.