MALAYSIAN OPEN

With the lucrative ?Middle East Swing? now over, the European Tour fields become slightly less illustrious as we embark on its Far East equivalent. The Malaysian Open is the first of seven events co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour between now and the end of April.

A decent field has assembled nevertheless, with all the top Asian players plus Darren Clarke, LEE WESTWOOD, Thomas Bjorn and MICHAEL CAMPBELL to name but a few. The Saujana course in Kuala Lumpar has been used four times for this event in the last decade, providing us with some useful form pointers.

Firstly, the extreme humidity and tricky, grainy greens offer considerable advantage to the Asian Tour players – or at least players with plenty of experience of the region. It’s no coincidence that the greatest Asian player of all time, Thongchai Jaidee, is bidding for his third consecutive Malaysian Open. So while it normally pays to side with the top overseas players in Asia, that strategy is less obvious than usual here. The second useful pointer is the importance of accuracy, rather than length, off the tee.

Jaidee is a worthy favourite, even if he trails several of his rivals here

in the world rankings. He has, after all, proved time and again that he can

match Europe?s best when in Asia. However, at single-figure odds there must

be some better value around in a tournament that could easily produce a

shock winner. Similar comments apply to Jyoti Randhawa, whose obvious

chances on his ?home? tour are more than reflected in his odds. However good

they are, its hard to argue that they deserve to be considerably shorter

odds than a US Open winner like Campbell.

The only two Europeans that make the staking plan are the ones with the best

winning form in this part of the world, Westwood and SIMON DYSON. Westwood

has a great record in the Far East, including a win on this course back in

1997. Despite only intermittently returning to the form of those heady days

in recent years, Lee looked on his way back to his best in the latter half

of 2006. Yet another starring role in Ryder Cup was complimented by five

top-10 finishes from his last six starts. He didn?t set the Middle East

alight, but produced two solid efforts nonetheless with only one over par

round from eight in Qatar and Dubai. If his last round in Dubai is anything

to go by, a 68 at the Emirates on a tough scoring day, Westwood has now

shaken off any winter rust and a big run is expected now in this less

competitive event.

As for Dyson, he made his name on the Asian Tour and for years struggled to

reproduce that form in Europe. Over the last year he has made significant

strides though, winning twice in good company, in Indonesia and Holland. And

Simon is another one who looks to be working his way into form just in time

for this, with an excellent 7th place behind Els, Woods, Stenson and co in

Dubai.

Campbell is a more speculative selection as his form has blown hot and cold

in recent months. He is another who usually goes well in Asia, as a pair of

top-three finishes in China last November testify, but little form of note

has followed since except second place in his native New Zealand Open. His

two efforts in the Middle East were distinctly average but at least he did

hit a very high percentage of fairways which will count for a lot here. At

22/1, the price on this world class player is simply too big to overlook.

Of the Asian players, the one player I do think represents a touch of value

is Indian prospect SHIV KAPUR. Kapur usually goes well on courses that

favour accuracy, and won many admirers with his efforts in the Middle East.

For three rounds, he was right in the thick of it in Abu Dhabi alongside

Els, Goosen, Stenson, Dimarco and the rest before understandably wobbling on

Sunday. He carried much of that form over to Dubai where 27th was no

disgrace. Back in conditions he knows well, he could be a factor on Sunday.

For a preview of the MALAYSIAN OPEN click here

AT & T PEBBLE BEACH PRO-AM

From a betting point of view, I?m quite pleased Tiger chose not to make this

the latest leg of his attempt to challenge Byron Nelson?s longstanding

record of 11 consecutive PGA Tour wins. Because without him, we?ve still got

an all-star line-up but which now looks a wide-open punting heat. I?m no fan

of pro-ams, but this is no ordinary pro-am as two of the rounds are played

at the superb Pebble Beach course, a regular on the US Open schedule. This

world-class venue usually produces a world-class winner. In the past decade

the only two winners that don?t quite match that description were Aaron

Oberholser (who is certainly no mug) and Matt Gogel.

So the odds are that the winner will come from the following leading batch –

VIJAY SINGH, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Luke Donald, PADRAIG HARRINGTON,

Mike Weir and DAVIS LOVE. Firstly, lets deal with the negatives in that

group. Mickelson has started the season terribly by his own standards, and

has only a mixed record in this event. The weather is invariably poor at

this venue at this time of the year, and this week?s forecast suggests much

of the same. Phil has never been a great player in bad weather. Furyk too

has a disappointing record here for such a consistent player and is also

overlooked.

Donald is certainly consistent enough and will no doubt be there or

thereabouts yet again but even this massive LD fan had to raise an eyebrow

at the way he blew his chance at the Sony Open in Hawaii. 12/1 is plenty

short enough until he can resume winning ways. Mike Weir presents something

of a conundrum. The Canadian has the best course form on show, with six

top-10 finishes from his last eight visits and finishing in the top-4 every

year since 2003. The problem is he hasn?t made a single top-20 anywhere

since the USPGA in August.

So by process of elimination we?re left with Singh, Harrington and Love, all

of whom have strong claims of their own. Vijay was hugely impressive when

winning the season?s opener in Hawaii, and can be forgiven a couple of

lacklustre efforts afterwards as they were on courses where he?s rarely been

seen at his best. He loves Pebble Beach, with seven top-10 finishes from his

last nine visits, the highlight of which was a win in 2004. His last three

rounds at Scottsdale over the weekend – 67/67/64 – suggest a return to the

winners? enclosure could be imminent.

Harrington has never played this pro-am before. The fact he?s here now is

perhaps an illustration of how the new Fedex Cup will alter players?

schedules, as I would have thought him more likely to be playing in Malaysia

this week. Now he?s here though, its hard to think of anyone in the field

better suited to playing Pebble Beach in bad weather. Whilst he may have

never played the pro-am, he did finish 5th in the 2000 US Open on this

course. And as I?ve said before, I?ve got big expectations for Pod in 2007.

Since last August, seven of his nine starts have yielded top-6 finishes,

winning twice including a head-to-head triumph over Tiger Woods. It may well

be that winning the Order of Merit after several near-misses will prove to

be just the kickstart he?s needed to make that critical final step into the

game?s elite.

Davis Love is so inconsistent these days that any bet should carry a health

warning, but it shouldn?t be forgotten that he has twice won this event in

the past, and on his day is still capable of competing with the very best.

His closing round of 65 at Scottsdale at least suggests he comes here in a

confident frame of mind.

For a preview of the AT&T PEBBLE BEACH PRO-AM click here

Good Luck!

MALAYSIAN OPEN

3pts ew LEE WESTWOOD @ 16/1 (GENERALLY AVAILABLE, 18/1 VCBET)

2pts ew MICHAEL CAMPBELL @ 22/1 (CORALS, PREMIERBET)

2pts ew SIMON DYSON @ 25/1 (GENERALLY AVAILABLE)

1.5pts ew SHIV KAPUR @ 40/1 (GENERALLY AVAILABLE)

AT & T PEBBLE BEACH PRO-AM

5pts win VIJAY SINGH @ 10/1 (BETFRED, TOTE, LADBROKES)

3pts ew PADRAIG HARRINGTON @ 16/1 (GENERALLY AVAILABLE)

1.5pts ew DAVIS LOVE @ 25/1 (GENERALLY AVAILABLE, 33/1 WITH TOTE)

2006/2007 STATS: +75pts

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