If this event were being played in Japan, Katayama would be a quarter of this week’s 50/1 odds. Shingo’s 26 wins in that admittedly lesser company owe much to relentlessly accurate driving and approach play, exactly the right requirements for Saujana. While it is true that he’s rarely re-produced that form overseas, we should remember that he was placed in the 2001 USPGA. And on his one appearance in a co-sanctioned Euro/Asian event last year, Katayama finished 4th in the Ballantines Championship.
 
Several other Asian players came in for consideration before ultimately being overlooked. Thailand’s Prayad Marksaeng finished 3rd here in 2004 and had some decent form in Japan last year. His compatriot Chalawit Plaphol has twice made the frame at Saujana, and could go well at a big price. Wen-Chong Liang and Wen-Tang Lin are often a threat in these events, if not particularly outstanding value at this week’s odds. Having finished 7th in Qatar and runner-up in a prestigious event just before Christmas, it would be no surprise to see Chapchai Nirat win here at a very tempting 80/1.
 
The final two spots in the staking plan are awarded to a couple of European outsiders, JEAN-FRANCOIS LUCQUIN and GARETH MAYBIN. Lucquin finished runner-up here in 2007, holding a golden opportunity before three-putting on the final green. In a sense that wasn’t a great shock, because putting has always been the Frenchman’s achilles heel. Its notable how Lucquin only ever challenges in certain events where putting prowess is less of an issue. Indeed his maiden victory came last September at a venue famed for its tricky putting surfaces where the whole field struggles to hole anything, Crans Sur Sierre. Because of these career-long characteristics, its important not to read too much into his drift back into mid-division obscurity since. In fact, 43rd and 32nd on his last two starts in the Middle East were no better than I’d have expected, whereas Saujana is far more suitable.
 
Though he is strongly expected to achieve vastly more than Lucquin over their respective careers, Northern Ireland’s Maybin is available at the same 80/1 odds. That’s not a mark to be sniffed at considering the impressive start to his European Tour career, which so nearly produced an early title on his penultimate start in the South African Open. Maybin will have learnt from that play-off defeat, and has already shown he’s comfortable in the Far East. He won on the Challenge Tour in China last September, and hit three good rounds out of four on his debut at the higher level in Hong Kong in November.
 
Good Luck!
 
ADVISED BETS
 
3pts ew THONGCHAI JAIDEE @ 14/1 (GENERALLY AVAILABLE)
2pts ew FRANCESCO MOLINARI @ 25/1 (GENERAL)
1pt ew SHINGO KATAYAMA @ 55/1 (SPORTINGBET, TOTE)
0.5pt ew GARETH MAYBIN @ 80/1 (GENERAL, 90/1 STAN JAMES)
0.5pt ew JEAN-FRANCOIS LUCQUIN @ 80/1 (PADDY POWER, HILLS, 90/1 STAN JAMES)
 
2008/2009 STATS: -185pts
2007/2008 STATS: +618pts
 
Where next?
 
Equipment: Callaway Golf Tour Prestige shoes gallery
Tournament preview: Maybank Malaysian Open
Industry news: Peter Todd is BIGGA’s National Chairman for 2009
Notice board: Left-handed golfers in line for Southpaw Open