Fanling is a tight, positional layout, where driving distance is of little or no benefit. In other words, the ideal track for a short-hitter who is proficient in all other areas of the game. Step forward SOREN KJELDSEN, who made the top six in both 2002 and 2006, with a further top 20 in between. Kjeldsen has vastly improved since then, transforming his profile from essentially a journeyman who occasionally went close at big odds to a regular contender. In the last 12 months or so, he’s won twice and made the top ten in a Major plus two WGC events. The latest of those was in Shanghai last week behind Mickelson and co, confirming his excellent current form.
This also looks an obvious opportunity for THONGCHAI JAIDEE, who is on the verge of another Asian Tour Order of Merit title. Only Wen-Chong Liang is within $500,000 of the Thai star, and given his fine record at Fanling, Jaidee has every reason to fancy his chances of closing the deal this week. Jaidee’s last four results here are seventh, second, third and 19th, and consecutive top 20s in his last three events confirm that he’s in as good form as ever.
Charl Schwartzel and Oliver Wilson both came in for very serious consideration. Schwartzel, earmarked as a winner in waiting a few weeks back, maintained his good form with fifth in Singapore. As he was eighth on his last visit to this course in 2004, when still very inexperienced, Schwartzel certainly has what it takes to thrive around Fanling. Wilson too has strong claims on last year’s sixth, and a host of decent efforts on this continent. My only concern is that Oliver’s driving accuracy has been poor over the last fortnight, and that could prove costly around here.
Simon Dyson has won twice already this year and is always worth considering in Asia; the continent where he built his career. Notably he won on this course when it hosted an Asian Tour event, but Dyson has been surprisingly disappointing since it has been co-sanctioned with Europe, failing to reach the top ten since 2001. Twice former winner Miguel Angel Jimenez certainly hasn’t underachieved here, but just doesn’t seem to be firing on all cylinders at present. Francesco Molinari, one of the losers in last year’s three-way play-off, is bound to be there or thereabouts once again but this weak finisher barely makes any betting appeal at less than 20/1.
My final two selections both have plenty of incentive for money list reasons. DARREN CLARKE is in 63rd place on the Race to Dubai, three spots outside the qualifying zone for next week’s cash-fest, and has form claims after four top 15s from his last seven starts in Europe. Darren’s presence in Hong Kong is significant in itself, because he could surely have opted to play the Taiheiyo Masters in Japan instead, an event he’s won twice before. It also bodes well that Clarke finished third on his sole previous visit to Fanling.
As for OLIVER FISHER, his concerns are more pressing down in 124th place on the money list, and needing a big week to save his card. It’s easy to forget that 18 months ago, Fisher was rated alongside McIlroy and Kaymer amongst Europe’s brightest prospects, so the talent must surely still be there. Clearly, its been a miserable season but Fisher has started to get his act together in recent weeks as the urgency of his situation has become apparent. Following seven straight missed cuts, Fisher has hit back with three consecutive top 25s, registering some impressive long game stats in the process. He may also gain some inspiration from last year’s performance at Fanling, when finishing 11th with rounds of 67, 65 and 64.
UBS HONG KONG OPEN
2pts ew GRAEME MCDOWELL @ 25/1 (BOYLES, PADDY POWER, BLUESQ, EXPEKT)
2pts ew SOREN KJELDSEN @ 28/1 (GENERAL)
2pts ew THONGCHAI JAIDEE @ 28/1 (GENERAL)
1pt ew DARREN CLARKE @ 50/1 (GENERAL)
1pt ew OLIVER FISHER @ 66/1 (GENERAL)
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
More golf betting: Australian Masters betting guide