See my Race to Dubai Betting Guide

See my Children’s Miracle Network Classic Betting Guide

HSBC CHAMPIONS TROPHY

4pts win ANTHONY KIM @ 12/1 (GENERAL)

3pts ew ROSS FISHER @ 16/1 (GENERAL)

3pts ew ROBERT KARLSSON @ 16/1 (GENERAL, 18/1 VCBET)

2.5pts ew PAUL CASEY @ 20/1 (GENERAL)

1.5pts ew GRAEME MCDOWELL @ 35/1 (STAN JAMES, BETDIRECT, HILLS, PADDY POWER)

As we enter this new era in global golf, the opening Race to Dubai event offers a significant early measure to compare the relative strengths of European and American golf. Three of the very best current PGA Tour stars are in China, Phil Mickelson, ANTONY KIM and Camilo Villegas, alongside most leading Europeans.

Though 2006 winner Yong-Eun Yang pulled off one of the biggest upsets in living memory at 500/1, Sheshan has generally shown itself to be a course that strongly favours the best players. Of the 17 players to make the top-5 in three runnings of the Champions Trophy, 8 had previously won a Major, and four more were either Ryder or Presidents Cup representatives.

Only 18 of this week’s 67-strong field fit those criteria, with Martin Kaymer, ROSS FISHER and Villegas certain to soon join that group. Over half the remainder look rank outsiders and after assessing the chances of each player, my shortlist was easily reduced to no more than a dozen.

Mickelson starts favourite as defending champion. Prior to that lucky and typically dramatic win last year, he’d never won a tournament of any significance outside the US. That win came as quite a surprise, because besides that poor overseas record, Mickelson is notorious for hanging his clubs up during the autumn. Again, he’s brought the whole family over to China, adding to the sense that this is ultimately an end of season holiday. And in any case, he’s done nothing since May to warrant a quote in single figures.

Sergio Garcia makes no betting appeal either. Valderrama saw yet another week bang in contention, with yet another failure on the final day. Despite that win a week earlier on his home course, Garcia has a long way to go to shed the dreaded ’bottler’ tag and warrant consideration at his usual skinny odds. Nor does 46th place on his sole previous visit bode well.

As he’s only played once since the Tour Championship, there is an element of doubt about the preparedness of ANTHONY KIM. However, the brilliant young Californian has made the frame on both of his last two starts in Asia, and seems more likely than most Americans to take his ‘global responsibilities’ seriously. The most important stats on this course are driving distance and par-5 performance, both areas where Kim excels. In honesty, I’m not over-excited about his 12/1 quote but equally am determined to stick with this player as he rises towards the pinnacle of the game.

In the long run, Villegas and Kaymer will be fighting out the biggest prizes with Kim. Both of these outstanding prospects could well challenge in China, and should also love the demands of Sheshan International. However, with so many big names holding strong chances this week, they were just squeezed out of the staking plan.

As mentioned in the Race to Dubai preview, ROSS FISHER and PAUL CASEY are fancied to make big strides forward this season, and both must be looking forward to this ideal opportunity to kick off the season with a title. Fisher traded at 25 to 1 on in-running last year, before embarrassingly himself on the final hole. Needing a par to win, his weak short game fell apart under the ultimate pressure. That forced extensive work with Mark Roe to improve this area of his game, and the results were there for all to see this summer. In recent weeks he’s looked a winner waiting to happen, and after last year’s near miss its clear that this course is perfect.

Casey has an enviable record in China, and on this specific course. Eight of his last dozen starts in this country have produced top-10s including two titles, and he’s finished no worse than 9th on three previous Sheshan outings. He’s strongly taken the eye on several occasions recently, and rarely has been faced with a more suitable task than this week.

Its also very hard to pick holes in the chances of ROBERT KARLSSON. He’s only played the course once in 2006, and made a big impact by finishing 6th when in nowhere near the form of recent months. The emphasis on long driving and quality approach play suits him as well as any, and I can’t help feeling his odds of 16/1 are a slight insult. When comparing his 2008 form to Mickelson, for instance, its hard to see how anyone could conclude that Karlsson should be almost twice the odds of the favourite.

Four of GRAEME MCDOWELL’s last five starts in China have produced top-10s, and he very much took the eye at Valderrama. He ranked second in the crucial greens in regulations stats, by far his best performance since being one of the few Europeans to emerge from the Ryder Cup with credit. It could be fair to assume that McDowell’s second half of the season became distracted by that Ryder Cup debut, and it would be no surprise at all to see a swift return to the form that produced two titles earlier in the season.

Good Luck!

ADVISED BETS

RACE TO DUBAI

2.5pts ew ROSS FISHER @ 20/1 (BETFRED, PAGEBET)

2.5pts ew PAUL CASEY @ 20/1 (GENERALLY AVAILABLE)

HSBC CHAMPIONS TROPHY

4pts win ANTONY KIM @ 12/1 (GENERAL)

3pts ew ROSS FISHER @ 16/1 (GENERAL)

3pts ew ROBERT KARLSSON @ 16/1 (GENERAL, 18/1 VCBET)

2.5pts ew PAUL CASEY @ 20/1 (GENERAL)

1.5pts ew GRAEME MCDOWELL @ 35/1 (STAN JAMES, BETDIRECT, HILLS, PADDY POWER)

CHILDREN’S MIRACLE NETWORK CLASSIC

3pts ew JUSTIN LEONARD @ 16/1 (SKYBET, SPORTINGBET, TOTE)

1pt ew SCOTT VERPLANK @ 50/1 (GENERAL)

1pt ew KEVIN STREELMAN @ 70/1 (BET365, 80/1 SPORTINGBET)

1pt ew JOHN HUSTON @ 80/1 (GENERAL)

0.5pts ew SCOTT MCCARRON @ 175/1 (SKYBET, 200/1 STAN JAMES)

2008/2009 STATS START FROM THIS WEEK

2007/2008 STATS: +618ptsR