Prize Fund: €1,025,038
Winner’s Share: €171,843
Course: Hong Kong Golf Course (6,699 yards – par 70)
Two tournaments to go before we reach the Final Series, as we leave Europe for the last assault on worldwide domination for the Tour. Off to Hong Kong for the aptly named Hong Kong Open at the aptly named Hong Kong Golf Course. Pure originality for you there.
We are in a bizarre situation this week though, where there will be two tournaments in Europe running concurrently. Whilst many of the European stalwarts play alongside the Asian Tours finest, slightly closer to home on the rainy shores of England, 16 top players will be battling it out in the exciting 1 v 1 format – The Volvo World Matchplay Championship at the prestigious London Golf Club in, well, not London but Kent.
The field contains 6 Ryder Cup players, including Patrick ‘ssshhhh’ Reed, who has given the tournament great advertisement and endorsements coming over to literally silence the crowds. Gmac, Henrik Stenson, Stephen Gallacher, Victor Dubuisson and Jamie Donaldson make up the remaining members of that great whitewash a few weeks back. We usually enjoy previewing and betting on matchplay tournaments and we certainly will, but at the time of writing the odds for specific markets have not yet been released. We will try and do a few cheeky accumulators along the way, so keep posted each morning!
Back to the other side of the world and when you look at the field, you cannot help but be underwhelmed. Miguel Ángel Jiménez headlines and rightly so having won here twice in a row and four times overall. Some record, but the 50-year old isn’t playing the best golf at the minute and for him to head the market at 12s is criminal. In fact the whole market is absolutely appalling and we were gobsmacked when the first bookies released their odds.
We had already earmarked two cracking players from the Asian Tour in Cameron White and Antonio Lascuna, but finding them at 40s and 33s (22s with some!) respectively put us right off them. Sadly. But do keep an eye on those boys, because they could do well, we just didn’t know enough about them to really attack at such low odds. Ernie Els at 14s – two top 10s all year, Robert Jan-Derksen at 22s – no top 10 since June. Basically, there are some pretty poor odds due to the low quality field, so, apart from White and Lascuna, we have decided to keep our original players because they weren’t the worst value considering.
The course itself is one of the shortest we can remember on any Tour – 6,699 yards. The par 70 will open itself up for all types of players, but it won’t be easily overpowered by the bombers because it is renowned for being a tight track. You have to stay in play in order to find birdies therefore the tee to green specialists usually come to the fore. You can see that by the winners – Jiménez, Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter, Colin Montgomerie, Pádraig Harrington and Freddie Jacobson to name but a few.
Tree-lined and strategically placed bunkers with small, compact greens are the courses main defences and you will need to be on top of your game accuracy wise to do well. Obviously putting is always imperative, but with the smaller greens, scrambling will, without doubt, play a big part.
Here’s what we’ve got.
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Grégory Bourdy (25/1 StanJames)
We know we banged on about the odds earlier and yes our opinions are the same, but considering the field, the course and recent form, we felt 25s for Grégory Bourdy felt fair and decent value.
The Frenchman is a 4-time European Tour winner and has bags of experience, but his 2014 has really not been of that standard. 3 top 10s all year is not the best return, but we were very impressed with his 2 rounds last week. He finished T7 in the rain effected Portugal Masters, with a 67 and 65. You cannot help but be intrigued by that sort of return to form.
He was 1st in driving accuracy both days, whilst he putted well throughout. We’ve always had him down as an iron guru, but that has weirdly whats been letting him down. In his T47 finish at the Alfred Dunhill a couple of weeks back, he was near the top for driving and putting but wasn’t hitting it far enough or accurately enough from the fairways. But with this shorter track, we are confident it should play into his hands and he will be able to attack the greens from closer, central positions.
He is 27th for GIR across the season, so it has just been recently that haven’t gone as well. But when you realise that he is 74th on the RTD rankings, it makes his case even more appealing. He has to get inside the top 60 in order to compete at the Final Series, making this the perfect and potentially last opportunity to cement a position.
He has won here as well, back in 2009, which will give him all sorts of confidence with the pressures on his shoulders. He is a quality player on his day and he has to prove that here.
Raphaël Jacquelin (40/1 various)
Another Frenchman with 4 European titles to his name, Raphaël Jacquelin has got quite a bit of air time in the past few weeks and we’ve taken note. Tee to green we always knew how talented he is and he has proven that, consistently finding greens for fun. He was 1st 3 out of the 4 days for GIR at the Alfred Dunhill and we are not denying he bottled the title from a winning position going into the weekend, but that T18 finish should give him some confidence.
He played very well, but wasn’t holing a great deal on the Sunday, shooting over par and dropping way down the leaderboard. If you are wondering if you’re losing your marbles and your adamant you saw him in Portugal, but can find no records of him anywhere, don’t be alarmed. We were stumped for a long time when we could find no records of his comeback quality 2nd round, playing with Nicolas Colsaerts.
He got disqualified… He wasn’t the only one mind you – Stuart Manley, José María Olazábal and Richard Green also DQ’d, but we are unable to find out why annoyingly. Whatever happened will be put to one side though because we have seen enough glimpses of someone close to finding their rhythm to back him here.
He finished T5 back in 2009 here as well, which should give him that extra push, plus, like his compatriot, he finds himself outside the top 60 in the RTD rankings – currently 75th. He needs a good week.
Prom Meesawat (50/1 various)
We see a lot of Prom Meesawat when the Asian parts of the Tour kick in during the early stages of the year and you cannot deny the Thai 30-year old has a lot of talent.
In his last 5 outings on the European Tour he hasn’t missed a cut, recorded 3 top 25s and 1 2nd placed finish. And where was that? Oh yes, Hong Kong. He played magnificently after a difficult year in 2013 to record that finish, unfortunately losing in a playoff to everyones favourite 50-year old. He tried to find more game time on the bigger Tour but ultimately struggled until that performance.
He has since coordinated his time more carefully and that’s why we feel the results have improved. He’s lying in 6th on the Asian Tour rankings and recorded a win just 4 outings ago. 31st for driving accuracy, 35th GIR, 19th putts per round and 5th for scrambling (all on the European Tour) show his all-round abilities and how damaging he could be over here.
Adrian Otaegui (100/1 BetVictor)
Adrian Otaegui (what a surname that is!) has a wonderful future ahead of him. The 21-year old Spaniard worked his backside off to earn his card back for the 2014 season and has been a mainstay on the European circuit, but it hasn’t gone according to plan.
He has just 1 top 10 all year and is facing life battling for a card once again if he doesn’t find something extra in Hong Kong. He currently lies in 116th place in the rankings, which is just 6 away from the necessary 110th spot, so it is crucial he gets 4 decent rounds together like we know he can.
He was very promising in his T12 finish last week, but the ridiculous weather and mad scenario he was faced with stopped him from placing higher. T2 after the 1st round, he was playing out his skin tee to green, finding putts for fun, but he had to pretty much run from the 18th back to the 1st and start his 2nd round straight away.
No rest or time to re-couperate is a lot to ask of any golfer, let alone a 21-year old needing a performance, so the fact he finished -1 for that round showed a lot of character. He was still outstanding tee to green (inside the top 7 in each categories on both days) but his putting did suffer.
He has never played here before, but his accuracy tee to green is highly encouraging and we feel he could really do something in a field not too dissimilar to a Challenge Tour one. We’re sorry Ernie and Miguel, that was harsh.
Peter Lawrie (200/1 various) and Simon Wakefield (250/1 various)
Both these European stalwarts are currently outside the top 110 in the RTD and will need one hell of a push to guarantee playing privileges next year.
Firstly, Peter Lawrie showed a bit of form at the Alfred Dunhill, winning the Pro-Am with Kieran McManus – bizarrely missing the cut in the actual tournament – but it should give him a slight push. He is traditionally a tee to green player, but has obviously played appallingly this year. He has recorded 2 top 10s here before and that should give him confidence.
Secondly, Simon Wakefield. A true gent of the game and a character who should be playing in the big time. He too hasn’t had the greatest season, but has always played unbelievably tee to green, just suffering with the short stick all too regularly. 4th in driving accuracy and 87th for GIR show his capabilities. But last week he found himself inside the top 10 for putting stats, now suffering with his irons. If he can put it all together then he could be up there, because with how short this course is, it could suit the Englishman. We are rooting for you Wakey!
Let us know your thoughts on our selections and who you fancy this week! @DownThe18th