Tiger seems to be growing in confidence if interviews are a guide, and the last time we saw him thrashing Francesco Molinari in the Ryder Cup singles, it was easy to forget what a miserable year he’s endured. Even at his best he never won this title, though did finish runner-up twice to David Howell and Y E Yang. Inaccuracy off the tee proved costly both times and could do so again unless he really is back to his very best.
With no end of problems on the personal and physical fronts, Phil hasn’t enjoyed a great summer either. Indeed, he must be disappointed to have missed numerous opportunities to be the one to finally topple Tiger in the rankings. He’s offered no hint of the form required to win this since the US Open, but having landed this title twice from three attempts, it would be madness to write off the defending champion.
If he can recapture his form from last month, Kaymer will have a great chance on a course where he’s already finished 20th and sixth, before this year’s vast improvement. However, he was extremely disappointing at Valderrama, leaving the impression that a short break is required before the forthcoming Dubai bonanza.
Having reached number one without hitting a ball, Lee now has to justify his status on the course. There’s no doubting his pedigree for Sheshan having lost a play-off in 2007 and never finished worse than 12th. The problem is that apart from the Ryder Cup, he’s only completed one event since the Open in July, so there must be form and fitness concerns.
Ernie really should have won this last year, shooting 63 on the final day for second place, despite finding water on the 72nd hole. His long game was in good order again for last week’s fifth in Malaysia and warrants respect, but I’m not convinced he’ll hole enough putts to win.
Back to back winners are pretty rare, although G-Mac has done it once already this season, following his win at Celtic Manor with the US Open title. Sunday’s third title of 2010 capped an amazing year, but I can’t help thinking he’s enjoyed his winning turns and that bookies now have his measure.
Harrington impressively broke a long losing spell in Malaysia last time, and certainly has the tools to prosper at Sheshan, where he’s never missed the top-25.
Ross has been repeatedly disappointing when carrying this column’s cash recently, yet remains in good form, albeit usually just off the pace. Long term readers may recall he was advised here at 100/1 on his Sheshan debut in 2007, when a final hole disaster cost him victory.
Fifth in Malaysia was a very impressive first attempt in this region, and Fowler looks very well suited to a ‘second shot course’ like Sheshan.
Donald remains superbly consistent, with Sunday’s third place his eleventh top-three of the season. The fact he’s only converted once in four years tells another story, though, and there is a suspicion that Luke lacks the power off the tee to win this.
As always, Francesco is unlikely to actually win, but top-tens on both visits to Shanghai and a similarly impressive record in China demand respect.
Allenby is my first reserve, and will almost certainly be a pick for next week’s Australian Masters. He’s in fine form, finishing like a train in Malaysia for fifth place, after third in the McGladrey Classic. 23rd on last year’s course debut looks ordinary, but it was actually a good effort, coming days after a very gruelling show at the World Matchplay on a different continent.
Schwartzel also made the short-list, as he played so much better than ninth place suggested last time out. He was sixth on his last visit to Sheshan in 2008, and has improved substantially since.
Scott was sixth on his sole visit to Sheshan in 2008, and with a great record in the region, is another for the shortlist. 11th place last week was no disaster, similar to recent, rarely challenging top-15s in the States.
If Quiros hadn’t been so disappointing of late, besides a surprise fifth in the Dunhill Links, he could easily have been a pick. Not surprisingly given the strong emphasis on driving distance and par-five performance, he’s made the last two top-tens here.
2010 STATS: +11pts
LONG-TERM ALREADY ADVISED
5pts MARTIN KAYMER TO WIN THE RACE TO DUBAI @ 9/1