MARTIN KAYMER has also had his bid severely affected by injury, but his form in the two weeks back suggests he’s fully recovered. Were it not for a long-putt holed on the 72nd hole by 500/1 chance Michael Jonzon, Kaymer could have been celebrating his third win in six events at the Castello Masters a fortnight ago; a run that also includes sixth place in the USPGA. Long-term readers will know how highly I rate this brilliant young German, and he is certainly up to making his mark against this company.
Another player to finish runner-up on his latest start, Francesco Molinari, also came in for serious consideration. The Italian finished ninth here back in 2006, and his long game accuracy should certainly thrive in this week’s tougher conditions. The only things deterring me are the shortening of his price in recent days, and more importantly a worrying tendency to fold under pressure when presented with winning chances. Therefore, place markets and match bets are a preferable strategy for Molinari.
CAMILO VILLEGAS gets the nod instead. Not so much because of recent form, though he played fairly well in last week’s matchplay and eighth at Cog Hill previously was a decent effort, but because I think this tougher layout will play to his strengths. Twenty-third and 20th on his two previous visits were nothing special, but the first came at an earlier stage of his career when less developed as a player and the latter was in wet, pick and place conditions. This time, I’m expecting the undulating greens to be firm and fast, and place a strong premium on the second shot. For my money, this is Villegas’ key strength, and explains why he is slowly building a portfolio of decent finishes in Majors.
With doubts about the preparedness of several candidates, recent form must be taken very seriously, and few look in better nick than ALEXANDER NOREN. Since landing that long overdue first title at Crans, the promising Swede has given the strong suggestion that more is to come, with fourth and sixth-placed finishes in Europe. You have to go back to July to see the last time Noren hit less than 70% of greens in regulation, and that bodes extremely well for Sheshan.
Finally, a few words about some other interesting candidates. We saw in Singapore that while Ernie Els retains a world-class long game, he just isn’t holing enough putts. Any sort of success on the greens would have brought him into the places. It was extremely frustrating to miss out on Ian Poulter’s overdue success, but given his failure to make the top ten in four tries at Sheshan, it would be folly to jump on board now.
Henrik Stenson and Geoff Ogilvy obviously have the class, and have thrived at Sheshan before, but must be overlooked due to poor form on their latest starts. One outsider who does strike me as playing well enough, and having the game to thrive in these tougher conditions, is the admirable Soren Kjeldsen. Having made the top ten against elite company in the USPGA and the WGC-CA Championships, the Dane is worth considering at 100/1 and in the speciality markets.
2.5pts ew LEE WESTWOOD @ 22/1 (CORAL, EXPEKT)
2pts ew RORY MCILROY @ 28/1 (GENERAL, 33/1 EXPEKT)
1.5pts ew MARTIN KAYMER @ 40/1 (GENERAL)
1pt ew CAMILO VILLEGAS @ 66/1 (TOTE, STAN JAMES)
1pt ew ALEXANDER NOREN @ 70/1 (VCBET, STAN JAMES, 80/1 CORAL)
LONG-TERM ALREADY ADVISED
RACE TO DUBAI
2.5pts ew ROSS FISHER @ 20/1
2.5pts ew PAUL CASEY @ 20/1
6pts win PAUL CASEY @ 8/1
1.5pts ew OLIVER WILSON @ 33/1
2008/2009 STATS: -229pts
2007/2008 STATS: +618pts