See my HSBC Champions Trophy Betting Guide

See my Children’s Miracle Network Classic Betting Guide

RACE TO DUBAI

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

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

Just days after Robert Karlsson became the last ever Order of Merit champion, the new ’Race to Dubai’ schedule gets underway at the familiar Asian venue of Sheshan International GC, Shanghai. The Champions Trophy has kicked off the Euro campaign for the last three years, and will actually feature twice in this inaugural schedule before we move to a normal, calendar-based race in 2010.

For all the fanfare and global significance surrounding the new era, a glance through the tournament schedule reveals that in the short-term, very little will actually change. There’s a new World Matchplay Championship next September, which effectively replaces the old Wentworth equivalent that had been a mainstay until this year. And rather than the 60 top players heading to Valderrama for the lucrative season finale, now they’ll play the Dubai World Championship. There’s room on the calendar to create one more big new event, but otherwise the season list looks virtually identical to the one just finished.

And while HSBC have attracted PGA Tour stars Phil Mickelson, Antony Kim and Camilo Villegas for the opener, this is merely in keeping with previous renewals. We may see similar PGA Tour representation in the Middle-East events, but its highly doubtful any will play enough to seriously influence the money list. Equally, US-based Europeans like Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald, Justin Rose and Ian Poulter are unlikely to shift their main focus away from the Fedex Cup race.

It would seem then, that the usual process required to identify the money list winner still applies. The last two winners, Karlsson and Rose, have actually managed to upset the formbook by showing vast improvement and were available at well over 33/1. Neither could exactly be described as a rank outsider though, and both fulfilled the most essential criteria of being eligible for the lucrative, restricted-field events.

Having removed all those PGA Tour regulars from my calculations, I can’t see more than 10 realistic winners of the inaugural Race to Dubai. As the favourite, Padraig Harrington, is a 9/1 chance, it stands to reason that they’re all pretty decent odds. Harrington, for instance, has traded substantially shorter than those odds in each of the last three years. He has been a rock of consistency in the Order of Merit, winning once, finishing second twice and making the top-3 six times in the last eight years.

However, I’m not interested in backing Pod because he seems to have lost interest in run of the mill events in favour of the biggest prizes. The other two main combatants from last season, Karlsson and Lee Westwood, look better value at slightly bigger odds, and could well be added to my long-term staking plan later in the race. Ditto last year’s main fancy Henrik Stenson, though I’ll have to see an improvement on recent form first.

For now though, my opening bets in this market are ROSS FISHER and PAUL CASEY. Both are available at 20/1, with four each-way payout places at a quarter of the odds. Fisher is a no-brainer after the way he’s finished the season. Quite clearly, Ross has improved dramatically since blowing what appeared an unassailable lead on the final hole at Sheshan this time last year.

The fact he’s blown several other winning chances this autumn leaves a slight question mark over his temperament, but equally he looked rock-solid for both of his titles to date. And considering that he could easily have won another million or so Euros with a little better luck on final days, 6th place on the Order of Merit looks even better. Fisher is clearly improving fast, and is fancied to win multiple titles in 2009.

Casey’s star faded somewhat without a win last season. In my view though, this run failed to reflect his wider improvement over the summer. Very few players in the world have been playing better tee to green golf than Casey lately, and he now looks the complete package. All that has been missing is a hot putter, and I have a feeling that could return in Asia over the next few weeks, a region he’s consistently played well in the past.

My main reason for fancying Casey for the money list is that he should love next year’s venues for the US Majors. He’s contended strongly for two Masters already, and looks more comfortable than most Europeans in the States. He should thrive at the 2009 US Open venue, Bethpage Black, a course to suit his power game if ever there was one.

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: +618pts