Prize Fund: $2,750,000
After an exhilarating end to The Masters, the European Tour kicks in again as we move to Malaysia for the 9th Maybank Malaysian Open. Many people put heart over head and backed Lee Westwood at Augusta and his tee to green performance was outstanding but that old tale of him with the short stick proved to be his downfall once again.
The Englishman will be teeing it up over in Asia this week for his first crack at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club. Whatever he managed to do in his tie for 7th, it does not mean he should at single figures with some bookmakers. That is absolutely criminal, especially when you think Louis Oosthuizen, Francesco Molinari and Matteo Manassero will be there as well.
The course itself is a 6,967 yard par 72 and although on the short side, the undulating fairways, parkland style, abundance of bunkers and water make it imperative to be an iron god.
The greens can be tricky at times, but on the whole it is quite open from the tee so even though it’s a short track, you can look at longer hitters to chance their arms because if they find good positions, then it will be a simple wedge into the greens.
There are 3 reachable par 4s and 5 par 5s that could make the difference between 1st and 2nd, so whether it be bombing it or tactical genius, you got to find those birdies.
Obviously, the weather last year was absolutely horrendous and Kiradech Aphibarnrat won after only 3 rounds and it is going to be a whole lot different in 2014. Four days play, four days rain (even some thunderstorms.)
Grégory Bourdy (50/1 Bet365)
Grégory Bourdy hasn’t played since the Trophée Hassan II, mainly because the European Tour has seen hardly any action itself. This is the case for a lot of the field who haven’t jumped the ship to America in recent weeks, but before the break the Frenchman was starting to find some encouraging form.
Firstly, he is yet to miss a cut in 2014 and he has been shooting scores below 70 more regularly, which is something he will need to do this week without doubt.
He has made some impressive displays in KL before, in 2011 he came 2nd, 1 shot behind Manassero and even with a final round -5, he double bogeyed the par 3 11th, which turned out to be the difference. Llast year he finished T11 but should have arguably done better, going into the delayed 3rd round final day in 2nd place. He was just 2 shots behind Aphibarnrat but the ridiculous weather that ensued played havoc with a lot of players and his +1 score diminished his title opportunities.
His GIR and driving accuracy that week were superb throughout the 3 days and that is something he has been showing again lately.
11th in GIR on Tour, 5th in driving accuracy and even 7th for putts per GIR. That sort of solid tee to green made Bourdy unbelievably appealing to us, especially at 50s, so someone that could definitely add to his 4 European titles.
Hennie Otto (50/1 PaddyPower)
Hennie Otto is playing some outrageously consistent golf this year. He is yet to finish higher than 37th and in the 9 outings he’s had, he has recorded 5 top 20s, including 3 top 10s.
His last performance on the European Tour resulted in a marvellous T5 at the Tshwane Open. His final 3 rounds in the 60s were all based around an outstanding tee to green game, missing very few fairways or greens. This could be his lethal weapon this week.
He will be coming onto a course that he has only played once a couple of years ago, but he did manage to finish in a tie for 7th. He shot a 64 in the 2nd round to go into the weekend 1 behind Oosthuizen but two mediocre rounds at the weekend meant he didn’t manage to get a place and he must feel like there is unfinished business around here.
26th in driving accuracy, 20th in GIR and 44th for driving distance. To say that is a dangerous combination is beyond an understatement and the idea that if his game comes together he could be straight, long and accurate means he is the perfect fit for this course.
You Gotto believe it.
Tommy Fleetwood (80/1 Ladbrokes)
Tommy Fleetwood is one of a number of young talents coming through on the European Tour at the moment. At just 23 years of age, he has already won his first title at the Johnnie Walker Championship last year and he seems like he’s continued that sort of form, all be it inconsistently, into the 2014 season.
A T3 at the Volvo Champions to start, showed his capabilities amongst the best from 2013, although he was in a great position to win the trophy.
Although a couple of missed cuts did follow, he got back to some sort of form at the Trophée Hassan II where he finished T23.
He will be going onto a course where he has proven it suits him, after shooting a 66 in round 2 last year, before falling victim to the weather and not playing the conditions particularly well. Finishing T11 is a solid return though and there is no reason he couldn’t do something similar now.
We all know what he can do from tee to green when his game is on and although the overall stats suggest he is pretty poor, just look at his outrageous GIR and driving accuracy in Morocco a few weeks ago. He never ventured outside the top 15 all week. Plus averaging it 285 will come in handy.
Emiliano Grillo (50/1 SkyBet)
Emiliano Grillo has come under the spotlight this season because he is another one of these prodigious young talents but he has had two opportunities to get a maiden European Tour trophy, although in two very different circumstances, failed both times.
You can only say that he will learn so much from the experiences, because they were both so unique. The first came after a T2 at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, where he finished 1 shot behind Stephen Gallacher, but he was miles back going into the final 9. He knew that on the par 5 18th, he had to get eagle and duly delivered, giving himself every chance, but Gallacher birdied 16 and 17 to guarantee a win.
But at the Africa Open he squandered a 2-shot lead going into Sunday, having played a majestic 62 in the 3rd round. This would have haunted him for a week or so, but we are very confident this mess will be behind him because he is such a confident young player.
He will always attack pins and when scoring will be important, you cannot ask for much more. Tee to green he is outstanding – 12th driving accuracy and 11th GIR. If he can get his short stick moving properly then he will have every chance of etching his name into the record books.
Mikko Ilonen (50/1 SkyBet)
What an absolute honour it is to be backing Mikko Ilonen this week. When he won big for us at the Nordea Masters last year, we were treated to a masterclass in how to use your irons. He just kept knocking them next to the pin, time and time again and although he understandably went off the boil afterwards – bear in mind he qualified for 3 majors and a WGC after the superb season he was having – he is now showing those signs he means business again.
Watching him fight back with a 66 at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters to force a playoff with Sergio Garcia had us jumping out our seats. He eventually lost the resulting duel, but followed it with an impressive T5 at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. To come back after a tantalising defeat shows the sort of character the Fin has and it cemented him firmly in our heads for the sort of tournament that would suit his game.
So, when we find ourselves looking at this week, Ilonen seemed like a cracking choice at 50s, especially after a T17 last year, showing he understands the course.
Like Fleetwood, he doesn’t read particularly well tee to green on the season’s stats, but those two top 5s, he never left the top 20 for GIR or driving accuracy. His putter has been on fire of late as well – 31st in putts per round.
We are so confident that Mikko can FINish off what form he has started with a victory.