We got off the mark last week as Tyrrell Hatton flew through the field on Sunday to land solo 3rd. It promised to be even better than that for a brief spell as he had a 10ft putt to get to -21 at the driveable Par 4 17th. He missed that and then found water on 18 to leave himself 2 shots shy but it was another brilliant desert performance and he rewarded the faith shown in him. Hatton’s consistent play in both desert and links conditions is second to none over the last 18 months and this has to be factored in when assessing his price going forward.
On to this week though and after two high class events in the Middle East the 2018 season is mixing things up a little with a trip to Malaysia this week, Australia next week and then Oman before the customary Qatar Masters closes the Middle East swing.
The field is nowhere near as deep but thankfully we also have a different test of golf this week at Saujana Golf Club, Kuala Lumpur. The Maybank Championship has just had one previous running in its current guise at this course and that was won last year by Fabrizio Zanotti. Saujana has hosted previous Malaysian Opens however with Thongchai Jaidee (2x), Vijay Singh and Peter Hedblom being amongst the winners.
The course is a very fiddly one with the majority of holes having their fairways carved out of the jungle so we won’t see drivers on every hole like last week and far more strategy will be required off the tee. After finding the correct portion of the fairway the test doesn’t stop there as the green complexes are said to be some of the toughest in Asian golf. They are small, undulating, fast and well protected by a mix of water and sand. This week it’s all about accurate types with brilliant short games and that is exactly what last year’s winner is all about. Zanotti is a short hitter who struggles to compete on lots of the modern courses. But throw him on a more strategic layout where touch is required around the greens and he can compete with the best on the European Tour. Thongchai Jaidee would usually fall into that category too so we can be fairly confident that a sharp short game is perhaps the most important attribute around Saujana.
For designer links the course was the work of Ronald Fream who also designed the Serapong Course at Sentosa Golf Club. It hosts the Singapore Open and was seen just two weeks ago when Sergio Garcia won by 5 shots. It is a more open course but it also has difficult greens and the same hot and humid conditions. That leaderboard may well be worth a once over given the two events’ close proximity to each other in the schedule.
Eddie Pepperell is a very entertaining follow on Twitter but he is also one of the more self-aware golfers and last week he tweeted some stats regarding his poor performance outside of Europe and it’s a very relevant point this week as we change climate. Some European Tour golfers play well in the U.K., some play well in the desert or South Africa while some play their best anywhere away from Europe. Form in the humid conditions of Asia is certainly a worthy string to the bow this week so if your fancy has never recorded a Top 10 or even a Top 20 in this part of the world then it is probably unlikely they are going to suddenly take to the conditions.
Henrik Stenson is the right favourite this week and I gave strong consideration to backing him at 8/1 but we have seen too many single figure price favourites fail to get the job done in recent weeks, most of those with a far better history of getting things done as a short price jolly. He is the stand-out, no brainer player to add to Fantasy teams but as an outright bet I think we can find better in the field. While favourites often represent the best chance of having a player in contention over the weekend and might often still be value at their single figure price, there are other factors in play here. Are the rewards of firing into Stenson at 8/1 worth it? I think there are players down the field that maybe aren’t guaranteed to play well but can be trusted to stay at the top of the leaderboard should they start well. Their price to finish in the places is also considerably better than Stenson’s win price.
Alex Levy was the first name on my list this week but given his standout combination of course and current form I tried not to get my hopes up about his price. I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t have wanted a little closer to 20/1 but we have to be realistic. Levy is a proven winner especially in Asia and he arrives having only been beaten last week by Rory McIlroy and two of the best young players on Tour. Levy’s form in Asia is excellent having won twice already in China and he was also 4th in this event last year even if the course maybe doesn’t look ideal for him at first glance. That 4th arrived after two fairly average performances in the desert whereas this year he has two top 10s coming in. Levy has always been a player who holds his form well for a period of time and that is when it pays to back him. It means we don’t always get the best of prices about him these days but he has 4 wins in the last 4 years and there isn’t a single player in the field that can boast more at this level in that time span. It’s an obvious pick but I don’t think I can leave him out given how well he is playing. He ranks 2nd in GIR so far this season and was putting well last week so he really should play well and give us a run for our money.
Jason Scrivener is a very talented golfer who doesn’t have too many weaknesses on his day. Last week he hit more fairways than anyone and that interests me this week. He is also a brilliant scrambler getting up and down 81.6% of the time last week and this test looks ideal for him. His iron game is also in good nick at the moment, currently ranking 23rd for the 2018 season. Hailing from Australia he is comfortable on this side of the world with some of his best results being in Hong Kong, Australia and Mauritius. He is also now a winner having taken the New South Wales Open in November and I like his chances of plotting his way around this course nicely and hopefully being at the right end of the leaderboard again come Sunday.
David Horsey also brings the current form and course form of Alex Levy but he does so at a tastier price than Levy having slowed down after an excellent opening 63 last week. Horsey finished 2nd here in 2009 and has the perfect game for Saujana. He is an accurate driver of the ball with a brilliant touch around the greens. How well he plays week to week usually depends on where his iron game is at and the course not being too long. Last week he showed that he was hitting the ball well but things just slowed down a little for him over the weekend. With a greater emphasis on finding the fairways here he should enjoy the advantage that gives him and we know his short stick is behaving as he ranked 4th for putting in Dubai. Horsey is another 4-time winner who is often dismissed too lightly in average fields like this. Looks a very solid each way play at 80/1.
Alexander Levy – 2pts ew @ 14/1
Jason Scrivener – 0.75pts ew @ 70/1
David Horsey – 0.75pts ew @ 80/1
Weekly pts advised = 7pts
- Results after last week
Total pts advised = 23pts
Total pts returned = 9pts