This week the European Tour heads to Asia, specifically Hong Kong for the UBS Hong Kong Open. A decent field has gathered here this week, with the hopes of securing the last win available in 2017.
America’s Patrick Reed joins Justin Rose and European Tour regulars, Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Danny Willett to head this field here in Hong Kong. Willett has struggled for form since his win at Augusta in March, so he will hope to end his career-year with another title.
Since taking its place on the European Tour schedule in 2001, this event has always been held at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Sheng Shui, New Territories.
This is a short course (6,710 yards) which means there needs to be something else that puts up a defence other than length. Instead of distance, Hong Kong Golf Club is set up to be a fiddly Par 70, which therefore rewards accuracy over anything else.
Last year Rose finished 1st in Greens in Regulation and 20th in Driving Accuracy, whilst Lucas Bjerregaard finished 2nd in Greens in Regulation and 13th in Driving Accuracy. Of the top-10 last year, Matt Ford ranked the lowest in Greens in Regulation in 22nd.
Ian Poulter shot a 60 here in 2010 en-route to his -22 total for the week. Since then however, Rose’s score of -17 is the lowest winning total.
Patrick Reed – 15/2
Justin Rose – 9/1
Danny Willett – 18/1
Rafa Cabrera Bello – 18/1
Tommy Fleetwood – 22/1
Ian Poulter 28/1 (General)
Ian Poulter was sidelined for four months in June of this year, due to a foot injury. This meant Poulter missed the chance to play in his favourite event, the Ryder Cup.
Since his return though, Poulter has been in some pretty solid form. He finished T28 in the Venetian Macao Open, his first event since returning from injury. He followed that up with a T17 finish at the CIMB Classic in a 78-man field. Following that he missed two cuts, before a T36 at the RSM Classic and a T21 at the Australian PGA Championship last week.
Whilst he has no outstanding finishes since returning from injury thus far, a return to this course may just have come at the best possible time. Poulter has played well enough to head into this week full of confidence without excelling. The rustiness in his game, which is clearly a result of the injury lay-off will end, hopefully here in familiar surroundings.
Since missing the cut here in 2004, Poulter has played four times, three appearances of which came between 2009-2011. In that span he finished 5th, 1st and 4th. Last year he returned for the first time since that 4th in 2011 and finished a respectable 29th.
In the six events leading up to this event last year he had two missed cuts and just one finish inside the top-20 so he was hardly in startling form. The same can be said this time around, however he is straight out the top-drawer in terms of class in this field and can go well in an event he clearly loves.
Stephen Gallacher 50/1 (Betfred & BoyleSports)
In three appearances at the Hong Kong Open, Gallacher has made 3/3 cuts and has one top-5.
Gallacher has progressively got better here, with finishes of 47-35-4. That top-4 here is obviously the eye-catching result but he has clearly always been comfortable here.
He can build on that 4th here and contend again this week. The Scotsman shot three 68’s and a final-round 65 to finish -11, four shots adrift of winner, Miguel Angel Jimenez.
After a rough patch which began after the conclusion of the 2014 Ryder Cup, Gallacher has started finding form. Like his form here, his last four results have been getting progressively better also.
Gallacher’s recent good form started at the Alfred Dunhill Championship where he finished T38. Since then he has finished T12 at both the British Masters and the Portugal Masters. Gallacher continued this good form last week, finishing T10 at the Australian PGA Championship.
At 50/1, Gallacher looks good value and looks ready to challenge once again.
Whilst at times during that barren spell it looked like Gallacher’s winning days were over, he certainly looks to be heading in the right direction once again. Gallacher will hope a good week here will be the catalyst he needs to produce a good showing in 2017.