George Coetzee duly delivered last week to give us a second winner in just 4 weeks and put the column in to profit through 8 weeks. While he certainly made things hard for himself I thought some of the criticism he endured was quite unfair. Especially as his record after leading on the European Tour through 54 holes is now a perfect 3 from 3. He isn’t someone you can always be too confident in getting over the line in Europe but in this grade it’s a different story and he rewarded the many who knew that 12/1 was just too big for an in-form Coetzee on his home course.
Onto this week though and with Shubhankar Sharma announcing himself on the world scene by leading for the first 3 rounds in the WGC Mexico, this perhaps couldn’t come at a better time for Indian golf and indeed the Asian Tour in general. They co-sanction this week with the European Tour but despite Sharma teeing it up we don’t have the greatest of fields. I don’t think that will lessen the spectacle this week however as plenty viewers will tune in off the back of Sharma’s exploits and attendance figures should also be boosted given the host course.
For a second year in a row the DLF Golf and Country Club hosts and rather interestingly it is listed as Sharma’s home course. But given he has flown back from Mexico after an extremely demanding week in the global spotlight for the first time, it would take a serious effort mentally for him to arrive here and put four rounds together as the focus of media attention again. Obviously he should know the course and is in great form but I’m not too interested I backing him here at just 14/1.
Last year it was very hard to get information about the course and subsequently betting was very tough heading in as nobody seemed to have a definitive answer to how long the course played. Unfortunately things haven’t moved on a great deal this year as there are still conflicting reports on the yardage. But having watched some last year we know that the course has a very flexible yardage and if SSP Chawrasia can win then the course probably doesn’t give away too much of an advantage to power as was expected last year. Indeed the stats suggest driving distance was of no matter and the biggest test was the difficult green complexes. SSP ranked 31st in GIR, 1st in scrambling and 3rd on the greens and that is what we have come to expect on Indian courses as they usually put a premium on short game skills.
Visually the course is absolutely all over the place to me and you will seldom see such an artificial looking course. It’s heavily undulating with lots of man-made elevation changes which encompass deep bunkers and large rock formations surrounding raised greens. Throw into the mix a couple of lakes and some deep vegetation and you can begin to see why the course got such a hard-time last year. I’m not sure you could call it tricked up so much as just a fairly poor course perhaps reflecting the arrogance of its designer, Gary Player, although that may be a little harsh. However in the modern golfing landscape any course which forces the players to use a more strategic approach has to be a good thing so I should probably reserve judgement until at least a second running of this event. Given the problems last year and how vocal some of the golfers were, you would imagine it will be set up a little bit more favourably.
With SSP chasing the hat-trick of wins having won the 2016 edition at Delhi Golf Club, its very plausible that being comfortable in India is every bit as important as being suited to the golfing test so as well as short game prowess and a strong GIR game, I’d be looking for some previous form in either this event or the Avantha Masters (2010-2013). Being mentally tough and capable of playing grinding golf will also be advantageous this week so a look at leaderboards from some of the more challenging layouts on Tour might be worth while. Courses like Valderrama, Le Golf National and any U.S. Open or Open venue usually present a difficult mental test.
With last week’s course also being a demanding Gary Player design, having played well in Pretoria could be doubly important this week although it seems to have had the same effect on the prices. Scott Jamieson will no doubt be popular but I was a little sceptical at first of his 33/1. Jamieson was 3rd last year and he had been playing ok before a marked improvement last week in South Africa where he always seems to play well. His best other recent result was runner-up at the Nedbank Golf Challenge, again on a Gary Player design. You can probably see where I’m going and while it’s very obvious, that seems to have been helping me find winners lately. We are always on the lookout for little snippets of information that can help us and over the weekend the commentators mentioned that Jamieson has recently moved his family to Florida. That could be a significant switch as he will now be able to practice year round and having played so well here last year I think a condfident Jamieson should go well again. The price isn’t fantastic but current and course combinations seldom are and while he isn’t a prolific winner he has won on the European Tour. There also won’t be too many in the field who have made every cut in India with Jamieson a perfect 4 from 4. I’m just about willing to play as I’d be quite annoyed to miss out on him should he win this week.
Ashun Wu has had some mixed results this year which sits well with his form on the whole since he won two European Tour events back in 2015/2016. But he fits the profile for this sort of test quite nicely and he was 28th on his last start but most importantly he was 6th in scrambling and 21st in driving accuracy. At his best Wu finds fairways, greens and scrambles and putts well so I’m hoping this test will allow him to continue his upturn in form. Both his European Tour wins were on a similar winning score so he is usually seen at his best away from birdie-fests where par is a good score. From what we saw last year par was a very good score so Wu just might be a shade of value here at 125/1.
Renato Paratore can be quite hit or miss off the tee as he is often rather wild with the driver. Yet he is more than capable of finding fairways on a tight course as he showed in South Africa in January when he hit 71% of the fairways around the fairly narrow Glendower course. He has also finished 7th at Crans and 23rd at Valderrama which are two other courses that can’t be overpowered. He missed the cut here last year but I don’t think that is necessarily something we want to hold against any of the younger players as they don’t all have the patience to grind out a score. But the fact that Renato is coming back this year tells me that he thinks he can get the better of the course. Ultimately though, arriving off a 4th place finish in Qatar I think he just looks a little over priced at 66/1. His game was in good shape as he ranked 22nd in GIR, 23rd in scrambling and 24th in putting. If he combines that with the strategical approach off the tee that he used in South Africa earlier this year then he may well improve considerably with a second look at the course.
Scott Jamieson – 1pt ew @ 33/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)
Ashun Wu – 0.75pt ew @ 125/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)
Renato Paratore – 0.75pts ew @ 66/1 (1/5 odds 6 places)
Weekly pts advised = 5pts
Results prior to this week
Total pts advised = 51pts
Total pts returned = 67.94pts
ROI = 33.2%