UBS HONG KONG OPEN
Of all the various Asian venues that host co-sanctioned events over the winter period, none has favoured the travelling overseas contingent more than Fanling GC. Not a single Asian Tour player has triumphed in the seven years since this event became part of the European Tour schedule.
European dominance is further emphasised by the course records of several leading Asian players who are normally competitive at this level. Consider the cases of five players who regularly feature on leaderboards in this type of event. Arjun Atwal, Antony Kang, Shiv Kapur, Thaworn Wiratchant and Liang Wen Chong have played Fanling 33 times between them, and never made a single top-10.
Furthermore, besides Jose-Manuel Lara who was around 66/1 for his 2006 triumph, all the other previous winners were amongst the favourites. This can be largely explained by the fact that Fanling is very much a ‘second-shot’ course, with greens in regulation by far the most important stat to follow. Usually when that is the case, we see a top-class leaderboard.
Under these circumstances, odds of at least 16/1 about joint-favourites MIGUEL-ANGEL JIMINEZ and GRAEME MCDOWELL seem pretty generous. Jiminez is defending champion and has won two of the four Hong Kong Opens he‘s contested. He was also 6th at Fanling two years ago, and enjoyed the best season of any of these. In fact, 2008 was arguably the best of the 46 year-old’s long career as he was still an Order of Merit contender right through until the final week. Unlike many others, Jiminez is experienced enough deal with any extra pressure as defending champion, and is likely to be well prepared after a short break.
McDowell impressed on last year’s Fanling debut, finishing 6th after hitting four rounds of 68 or better. Twice a winner earlier in the year, and impressive on his Ryder Cup debut, McDowell has very much taken the eye on his last two starts at Valderrama and Sheshan in slightly stronger company. His record in Asia is very consistent, which adds to a growing belief that he will pick up more prizes over the next few months in the region.
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