The first event in the final series begins this week as the BMW Masters comes to town. Well China town. The beautiful Lake Malaren Golf Club in Shanghai plays host and we can all now get excited about the $30 million that will be on offer over the coming 4 tournaments.
It is a Jack Nicklaus design and as we are all accustomed to from the golfing great, it is what you would expect – generous enough fairways with very tough pin position and hazards dotted around in the most unexpected places. He is a living genius.
At 7,600 yards it is one of the longer tracks on tour, so the bombers will get a chance to unleash their muscles and rip it as far as they can. The further down the fairway they go, the better chance it is for birdie because predominately winning will come from the approach shots. GIR will be the most important aspect – a risk/reward sort of feel, attacking pins at the right time, whilst negotiating the bunkers and water dotted everywhere.
These undulating greens will be tough at times, so putting will be another factor, but last year the players who finished strongly just seemed to get on a roll at one point or another and hole everything, whether they were historically good putters or not.
There is the combination of long par 3s and 4s with reachable par 5s so these longer hitters will tend to be favoured but do not count out the strategists amongst the field, who will plan a birdie surge rather than a natural assault.
The field itself is very strong, with the top 60 from Race To Dubai flying over, including the likes of everyone’s main man Henrik Stenson, the invited Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald.
There are also plenty of home favourites for the locals to cheer on and trust us, there is definite value in some of these players even in the hype of the stars.
You can pretty much cancel out the ‘big boys’ from a betting perspective with some horrendous odds – Louis Oosthuizen at 22s?!! Lee Westwood at 18s?!! Ross Fisher at 20s??!! We could go on.
Nicolas Colsaerts (28/1 Paddy Power)
The Belgian Bomber had a very quiet 2013 season to say the least. His venture onto the PGA Tour perhaps didn’t go as planned which was a shock to many considering his outrageous length off the tee. But over the past month Colsaerts has found himself in more familiar and comfortable surroundings on the European Tour. After a withdrawal at the KLM Open, he has gone T4 Open D’Italia , victory at the Seve Trophy and then T15 last time out in Portugal. Now the Belgian thrives off form and he comes to a course in China where he finished 14th last year and was many people’s favourite. And you can see why. His game is set up perfectly for the course. His length off the tee will take advantage of the exposed fairways and his carefree attitude at times will give him the confidence to attack what will be some very difficult pin positions. It’s definitely time for Colsaerts to get his 3rd European title.
Bernd Wiesberger (28/1 various)
The big hitting Austrian has been in and around our betting mix up for quite some time now, as we pondered over odds and whether this would finally be the week he gets a deserved 2013 win.
He has been in and out of form throughout the year, but on many occasions showed signs of true class. 9 top 20s is a very solid return, however at times his putting has gone missing which has let him down in all honesty.
He averages over 300 yards off the tee (16th in the rankings) and has the power to counter-act all the length this course provides. Yet what made us most excited about him and one of the main reasons he popped into our heads straight away, is how accurate his irons are when his game is on. (24th GIR in the rankings)
We have seen him produce magical displays when approaching the greens and if he can combine his length and accuracy he will be a very interesting prospect.
Wiesberger did play here last year, finishing a respectable T40 but his recent form will carry him through and he should be confident about where his game is. T3, T12 and T23 is not bad at all.
Plus, his first ever European Tour win was in Asia…
Peter Uihlein (40/1 Paddy Power)
We’re backing the American once more and you can’t really blame us after his play-off defeat to David Howell last time we were on him. Uihlein’s desire is there for all to see having skipped the usual American progression through the Web.com and decided to try his hand across the pond. Between himself and close friend Brooks Koepka, they have played competitively in 25 countries in 2013. And the rewards are already being reaped, with Peter already bagging a European Tour title along with 10th place in the Race to Dubai list. So he comes to China a confident man, one with no fear and with a game that could tear this course apart. Uihlein could very well match our number one pick Colsaerts for distance off the tee this week and his iron display at St Andrews was nothing short of sensational. (Except on the play-off…) So he is the real deal. We don’t know what it is about these young American’s, but they seem to just churn out big finishes week after week and there is no reason why Uihlein can’t do it again in China.
Ashun Wu (250/1 BetVictor)
The young Chinese prodigy. 28-year old Ashun Wu may seem like a random pick but out of all the long odd ridiculousness we have gone for this year, he is very worthy 4th pick.
For starters, this is his home course. He grew up in an area further south but decided that this is where he could hone his skills, so the knowledge he will have on every nook and cranny will be unparalleled to anyone else in the field.
His recent form is not to be underestimated either. T21, T3, T13, T37 and T11. Considering all those tournaments were in Asia (mainly on the Japan Golf Tour) that is some going.
His driving distance is around 280 and that could hinder him but his acquaintance with the course should add that extra yardage and T29 in GIR on the Japan Golf Tour is very good.
His best performances on the European Tour have all come in Asia, so we do not see any reason why he cant replicate his recent form and record what would be outrageous returns for all of us.
In all honesty we are that excited by Wu, we won’t even make a pun.
Luke Guthrie (90/1 Bet365)
We really like this bet. As you know we follow the PGA Tour extensively, so it is always interesting when a few boys from American pop over and ply their trade on the European Tour. Now 90/1 suggests Guthrie is a massive outsider but we can assure you his game has all the tools for this course! Perhaps a big statement, but Guthrie is somewhat of a Nicklaus course specialist after his 3rd place on the PGA National Course for the Honda Classic! As we say, big statement. But Guthrie absolutely tore up the Web.com tour in 2012 which gave him PGA Tour status for 2013. With only two top 10’s last year it was perhaps a bit of a disappointment. But in his second start on the PGA Tour for 2014 he did finish T5 and took home a cool $210,000. And he is also averaging 304 yards off the tee, which will be dangerous coming to a course where the bombers could potentially thrive!
Wenchong Liang (150/1 BetVictor)
Wenchong Liang won us quite a bit of money back in March when he finished 3rd at the Avantha Masters in India. He was sublime throughout the four days and was unlucky to come up against a resurgent Thomas Aiken who ended up winning.
He showed how far he can hit it when he wants to, but has averaged around 295 yards throughout the season. If he is in full swing he can bomb a ball but in all honesty his irons were outstanding that day, as was his putting. (14th GIR on Asian Tour and 27th putting av.)
He has recorded 3 top 5s on the European Tour this season and is currently 4th in the Asian Tour order of merit, which shows how solid his performances have been throughout 2013.
But it is his recent form, which excited us the most. In a mixture of events on both the Japan Golf and Asian Tours he has finished T11, T2, T4 and T4. He is in a real hot streak and this could be another interesting outsider.