After a fantastic week for my tips last week on the European Tour, I hope to continue that form this week, as we stay in Asia for the Volvo China Open. Brett Rumford won last week and was tipped at 80/1 as was 2nd placed Marcus Fraser at 40/1 and Romain Wattel 4th place at 100/1, a largely successful week all round. Hopefully last week can be the kick start needed for the season and hopefully form can continue for as long as possible and especially here this week in China.
This week we see two of the stronger players on Tour this season back in the field, as South African duo Branden Grace and Thomas Aiken both tee it up once more. They both come in at the top of the betting at 14/1 & 20/1 respectively and this won’t come as much of a surprise as Branden Grace is the defending champion and Thomas Aiken has already won earlier in the season. Neither player however top the betting as Alex Noren comes in at 12/1 off the back of a two consecutive T6s, last week in the Ballantine’s Championship and the Malaysian Maybank Open at the end of March.
The Volvo China Open is a golf tournament that has been played since 1995, and co-sanctioned by the European Tour since 2003 and has been played at no less than 9 different courses, making it a fresh challenge for all players involved and is the key reason that no player has won it on more than one occasion. Having said that, some players consistently play well in China, whichever course it is and not only China but Asia as a whole and these players are the ones to look for.
Now we will take a look at what is needed to win at this golf course, as it was played at the same course Binhai Lake GC in 2012, and we will also look at the similarities of the defending champion. The course on first impressions is one of the longer ones you’ll see all season and that may put you off certain players, and with Branden Grace and Nicolas Colsaerts being 1 and 2 last year, it proves that long hitters could well have an instant advantage.
The Course: Binhai Lake GC, Par 72, 7,677 yards. It is fair to say that this is definitely a long course and some players will thrive knowing that length of the tee will give them a seemingly obvious advantage on those who struggle to hit it a long way. The course was designed by Pete Dye, and is known to have wide fairways, giving a links style feel to the course. Alex Noren’s 63 last year was the lowest score of the week, whilst four players also managed 64.
Defending Champion: Branden Grace won the 2012 Volvo China Open with a final score of -21, 3 strokes clear of Nicolas Colsaerts. Grace shot four sub-70 rounds starting the week with a pair of 67s and closing with 64 and 69, so he has proved that low scoring is possible on this golf course. This was his 3rd of 4 wins last season and although he has not found a win so far this season, he has had three top 10’s and he will certainly fancy his chances once again in China this week. After coming T18 at the Masters he should come into this tournament in similar confidence to last year and it certainly wouldn’t surprise anyone if he was to win again this week.
With the course only being used for this event, for the first time last season it’s hard to tell who apart from the notable players in last years event who’s eye is suited to the course, however what you can take into account is a player’s form in this event in the past, as playing consistently well in one country can often lead to good results. You can also look at player’s form in the Asian events so far this season, both co-sanctioned by the European Tour (Avantha Masters, Malaysian Maybank Open and the Ballantine’s Championship) as well how players who may be in the field this week are playing on the Asian Tour itself. Bearing all this in mind here are my tips for what I can hope to be another successful week on the European Tour.
Victor Dubuisson 33/1 (General) 2pts e/w: Victor Dubuisson fits all the necessary attributes for me this week and that’s why even at 33/1 for a player without a win, I’m still happy to go with him. Dubuisson missed the cut last week in Korea, but other than that he has finished 9th and 4th in his two other outings in Asia, at the Avantha Masters and Maybank Malaysian Open respectively. On top of that he finished 4th here last season and like both Grace and Colsaerts managed to shoot sub-70 in all four of his rounds. He certainly has the length to play on this course and he will certainly be desperate as ever to get his first win, and this course may just give him one of the best opportunities to do that. He’s 30th in Driving Distance, with an average drive just under 296 yards and that will certainly be enough to get the job done. He is a player I rate very highly and find myself backing on multiple occasions. He may looks seemingly short for someone without a win, but didn’t Billy Horschel just win his first PGA Tour event last week at odds of 33/1? Stranger things have happened and I certainly think he’ll be in with a shout come Sunday.
Maximilian Kieffer 60/1 (Betfair Fixed Odds) 1pt e/w: Kieffer is an exciting young prospect on the European Tour, and he proved that missing out eventually in a play off to Raphael Jacquelin after 9 extra holes. Eccentric on the course and solid in his play he certainly fits the bill of a German golfer, similar to that of Martin Kaymer who went on to become a prolific winner early on in his career, and Kieffer may well be looking to follow in his footsteps. He has missed just two cuts this season and they were in the Trophee Hassan the tournament before his 2nd place finish and the Qatar Masters which was the first event of 2013 so it’s fair to say he’s been playing some good, consistent golf and I don’t see why he can’t challenge again this week. As mentioned earlier Driving Distance seems a premium factor when winning here, and he is 41st on Tour in this category with an average of 293.400 and although there are longer hitters on tour, many of the players above him have played fewer tournaments and therefore kept a higher average. His distance of the tee isn’t the key point for me going for him, I just think he’s a player with huge upside and definitely on the rise, and at 60/1 he seems a big price. Should he continue to find steady top 10, top 20 finishes his odds are going to shorten all the time.
Peter Whiteford 70/1 (StanJames) 1pt e/w: Fortunately for me, Whiteford couldn’t steal the win from Brett Rumford last week in the Ballantine’s Championship, but he certainly come close and this will be another boost of confidence for the Scotsman. His only other top 20 finish this season was at the Avantha Masters and although that doesn’t read that well, it’s his form in China that has made me pull the trigger on him at 70/1 and hopefully it pays off. In his last four attempts in this tournament he has finished, T18, T16, T28 and T8 and with last weeks performance under his belt hopefully he can go on and finish even higher in this event and even get his first European Tour win. In his the last two years he has posted final round of 66 and 68 and he will look to go low again in not just the last round but in all four. He has won three Challenge Tour titles, two in 2007 and one in 2009, so he does now how to win and he will hope as much as anyone that he can step up and do it on the bigger stage. Whiteford himself is 56th in Driving Distance but has hit more than any player above him, so he should be happy to hit it far and well again here this week.
Julien Quesne 80/1 (Skybet, StanJames, Coral) 1pt e/w: Quesne is another player who similarly to Dubuisson is not only French but one of the players I like to keep on eye on when I’m looking at who to back. He is again in my plan this week, not only due to what seems a generous price, but his finish here last season as he came 11th on his first outing. He is another player who has already done well in Asia, finishing T9 at the Avantha Masters and hopefully he can finish high again here in China. He has two other top 10s in 2013, one at the Trophee Hasaan, which was a difficult tournament and the other Volvo event, the Volvo Golf Champions at the start of the year where he came T5. He has shown signs of being a fantastic player and hopefully he will draw confidence from some decent form and last years result and go for the win this week.
European Tour Points staked: 10
Total Points staked (inc PGA TOUR): 19
Profit/Loss for 2013: +56
Last week on the European Tour as mentioned earlier was the best so far for me personally, having the winner and two other players in the top 5, and although that won’t happen every week, I’m hoping to build on my consistency and continue to if not find winners, at least find some high value each way finishes. I hope you enjoy the Volvo China Open, and my tips for it, also be sure to check out my tips for the Wells Fargo Championship if you haven’t already. You can follow me on Twitter @TomJacobs8