The Saujana Golf & Country Club plays host to the second edition of the Maybank Golf Championship 2017 this week. The course is a Par 72 that measures just under 7,200 yards and as is always the case in Malaysia, there’s a threat of thunderstorms. The undulating fairways can be awkward and finding them in the correct spot, or at worst, the right place in the rough is key.
Good experience on the course or on any Malaysian layout is a very good pointer this week. Gerry Norquist and Vijay Singh had both won the Malaysian Open prior to winning at Saujana and Anthony Kang and Peter Hedblom were both former runners-up before their win. Only Thongchai Jaidee didn’t have a Top 2 finish in Malaysia before winning at Saujana (his best finish was a T7) but he went on to win another Malaysian Open the next year.
Charl Schwartzel, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Bernd Wiesberger and Lee Westwood are the four big names but I have questions about all of them. Schwartzel tends to clean up in these events but he hasn’t played at all in the last two months so it’s tough to know where his game will be. This Sunday will mark five years to the day since Cabrera-Bello last won an event. For that reason, I just can’t even think about backing him at those odds. Wiesberger and Westwood are both in minor droughts at that moment and at their prices, I’m pretty happy to stay away.
I backed Victor Dubuisson this morning at 80/1 and I think that price is fantastic. The man who gives credence to the cliché of the mercurial Frenchman, Dubuisson started to hit form towards the end of last year but ended up on the wrong side of the draw last week on his return. Unfortunately, his odds have now been cut to 50/1 and although I won’t be turning anyone off at the price, I won’t be tipping him either.
Instead, I’ll put my faith in Thongchai Jaidee at 25/1. The 47-year-old has now won eight times on the European Tour which is a huge accomplishment. An underrated golfer all-around, Jaidee has been particularly successful at closing out events when given the chance in recent years. Jaidee has won twice in Malaysia, including once at Saujana Golf & Country Club. Last week in Dubai, he ranked 2nd in FIR and 8th in GIR so his game is clearly in good shape. If he plays well this week then I think there’s every chance that he adds another win to his collection.
Felipe Aguilar seemed like a great bet at 350/1 last week and after one round he was just one shot back of Sergio Garcia. Unfortunately, a poor start to his 2nd Round in tough conditions threw him off and he fell apart from there. This week at 150/1, I still think there’s enough about him to convince me he’s worth a bet. The Chilean ranked 1st in GIR in Qatar and was in the Top 25 in Greens and Fairways hit last week. Aguilar has won in Singapore and Indonesia and a solo 6th in Malaysia in 2011 is pretty promising. I said it last week, I’ll say it again, if he can hole some putts then there’s every chance he can win again on the European Tour.
Matteo Manassero was two days shy of his 18th birthday when he won the Malaysian Open in 2011. Even though he’s won twice since then, Manassero is at the low point of his career right now. The odds of 150/1 seem more than fair in this field. A ranking of 11th in FIR and 2nd in GIR last week suggests that, like Aguilar, a good week with the putter could see him pick up another European Tour win in Malaysia.
I’ll finish it off with 500/1 shot Nathan Holman. The 25-year-old hasn’t played particularly well since winning the Australian PGA Championship in 2015. Holman has finished T11 and 8th in his only two starts in Malaysia though so the conditions and courses clearly suit his game. Even though he finished dead last in Dubai, he did at least putt well so there’s some hope about the 500/1 shot.