BMW ASIAN OPEN
To my great relief, this is the last European Tour event to be screened at unsociably early hours for several months. The BMW Asian Open is the final event in what used to be known as the ?Far East Swing? but now encompasses almost half the calendar year. Distinctively among the Asian events, this one has been dominated by non-Asian Tour regulars. 4 of the 5 previous winners were European, while South African Ernie Els won by an incredible 13
shots at this venue two years ago.
The Shanghai course has undergone considerable changes in the meantime. The rough is still not penal, but the planting of several hundred new trees should make this a test of accuracy and positional play rather than power. Wind could also be a major factor. Previous winners such as Els, Harrington and Jiminez tends to suggest a top-class player coming out on top, which would be a rarity in the 2007 golf season.
Els makes obvious appeal on his 2005 blitz, but several doubts remain. With the Heritage Classic only finishing on Monday, he will have had a hectic week. Asides the jetlag worries, there will have been little or no time for a practice round on the new layout. Some will also be deterred after he failed yet again to convert a winning position at Harbour Town, but I think this criticism is slightly harsh. He played three fine rounds, including a fine 71 in very tough conditions on Monday. Losing by a shot to a player who holes consecutive par chips on the 71st and 72nd hole was simply unlucky. All things considered though, I?d prefer to look for each-way value than taking 6/1 about the Big Easy.
Retief Goosen makes his course debut and comes right into the reckoning on the back of a superb weekend at the Masters. Paul Casey played a blinder at Augusta too, and finished 5th last year. My doubts about these two stem from the course changes. I?ve never been convinced either have been at their best on tight, positional golf courses. Again at simple figures there must be alternative each-way value.
One class act whose odds are drifting markedly on a weekly basis is COLIN MONTGOMERIE. This is a dangerous strategy for the bookies, as Monty remains a winner capable of top-class golf even if he can now be wildly inconsistent. We have to overlook three very poor efforts in the US, though I can?t say any of them surprised me as Colin has never looked a factor on those courses in the past and has generally underperformed Stateside throughout his career. Prior to that bad run, Monty had consecutive top-10 finishes in high class fields in Dubai and the Johnnie Walker Classic. Asia has become a regular and reasonably happy hunting ground for Colin in recent years, and I think the new course layout will suit him down to a tee, much more so than last year when he finished 3rd.
We got no value whatsoever backing SIMON DYSON last week when he pulled out sick after just 2 holes, thereby counting as a competitor for betting purposes and preventing a refund. I doubt last week?s bug will affect him now, in fact he may strip slightly fresher than most for having the weekend off. In three outings on the course, Dyson has finished 2nd, 5th and 14th so must come into the reckoning.
My final pair are both speculative 66/1 punts. Firstly, JEAN-FRANCOIS LUCQUIN is a player who likes the course and comes here in good heart. He has made the top-8 on two from three visits, a position he has also made on three of his eight most recent starts. He seems to thrive on courses that reward accuracy and positional play. Similar comments apply to GRAEME STORM, another decent player overdue a first Tour win. I thought Storm did nothing wrong in the heat of battle three weeks ago in Portugal. He played some superb stuff from tee to green and may have won with a bit more luck on the greens and a less inspired opponent than the amateur Benevides. Promisingly, Storm finished 13th on his course debut last year, and should improve for the course changes.
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A fairly weak field by PGA Tour standards assemble for what looks a wide-open event in New Orleans. The event returns to TPC Louisiana for the first time since restoration after Hurricane Katrina. Over 300 new trees have been grown, but this is only a small fraction of the 2000 lost. Plus with various holes and green changes, previous course form is pretty much irrelevant. With so much more room on a long course, one might think the
longer hitters will be at an advantage, but good putting also looks essential on tough, sloping greens.
Bearing in mind recent results as well, it all smacks of a shock winner to me so I?m keeping stakes low. LUCAS GLOVER makes for an obvious selection at 28/1 given the weakness of this field. He fits the perfect profile, fairly long off the tee and an excellent putter. Though I?m not placing too much emphasis on previous course form, it must bode well that Glover finished 3rd here two years ago when a considerably lesser player than today. Lucas
played superbly at the Masters for a long way, and looks a very strong contender in this grade of event.
If the course does favour long-hitters, BUBBA WATSON must come into the equation at 66/1. Runner-up on his penultimate start in Houston, and top-8 on three of his last eight PGA Tour outings, I can?t see why his price is this big. Its quite clear too that Watson?s form tends to come where his huge distance off the tee is best rewarded. Bubba is a first-time winner in waiting in a tournament of this stature.
For my final selection during a quiet week, I?m having a speculative punt on CHARLEY HOFFMAN. Hoffman is one of the more promising youngsters on the PGA Tour and has already won. He hasn?t really followed up since that Bob Hope triumph, but this week?s conditions should suit his game and his best showing for a while is expected.
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BMW ASIAN OPEN
2pts ew COLIN MONTGOMERIE @ 28/1 (GENERAL, 33/1 WITH TOTE)
2pts ew SIMON DYSON @ 25/1 (GENERAL, 28/1 WITH CORAL)
1pt ew JEAN-FRANCOIS LUCQUIN @ 66/1 (GENERAL)
1pt ew GRAEME STORM @ 66/1 (GENERAL)
2pts ew LUCAS GLOVER @ 25/1 (28/1 WITH EXPEKT)
1pt ew BUBBA WATSON @ 66/1 (GENERAL)
1pt ew CHARLEY HOFFMAN @ 66/1 (GENERAL, 80/1 WITH PADDY POWER)
2006/2007 STATS: -48pts
2005/2006 STATS: +144pts
ANTE-POST ALREADY ADVISED
VOLVO ORDER OF MERIT
5pts PADRAIG HARRINGTON @ 7/1
5pts HENRIK STENSON @ 10/1
3pts TIGER WOODS TO WIN GRAND SLAM IN 2007@ 40/1
10pts TIGER WOODS TO WIN 3 MAJORS IN 2007 @ 8/1
US MONEY LIST W/O TIGER WOODS
2pts ew TREVOR IMMELMAN @ 20/1