The Race to Dubai returns to Australia this week for the sixteenth running of the Johnnie Walker Classic. As always, the sponsors have managed to attract a batch of world stars, including PGA Tour prodigies Anthony Kim and CAMILO VILLEGAS and a wide range of European regulars.
This used to be a pretty easy puzzle to solve, with all of the first thirteen runnings going to one of the leading players in the betting. Of those early champions, only Jimenez and Scott are non-Major winners, though both still world-class. However since the event was first held at this year’s venue, The Vines, in 2006, things have got somewhat trickier for punters, with all the last three winners starting as rank outsiders.
Euro Tour fans with longer memories will remember this venue from its days as host to the Heineken Classic. At least half of the holes used nowadays are different, but the essential characteristics remain the same. This is a positional course with several doglegs, with the main emphasis on accurate iron play to large, fast, undulating greens. The course’s main defences are those firm greens, and the local wind known as the ‘Fremantle Doctor’. In calm conditions, very low scoring is possible.
Indeed, studying the weather forecast is an imperative here, and I must admit it transformed my staking plan. The ‘Doctor’ reliably arrives in the late afternoon, as anyone who has ever watched a Test match at Perth will know, so usually the morning starters enjoy something of an advantage. However, according to this week’s advanced forecast, those drawn early on day one will get the best of conditions on both days, which could add at least a couple more shots advantage to what is always a plum draw anyway.