A quartet of Ryder Cup heroes dominate the betting for this penultimate leg of the Race to Dubai, creating something of a headache for value-seeking punters. Their combined odds equate to less than 2/1, and the best price about any of them is just 14/1. As the field is hardly lacking in depth, each-way betting on the favourites makes little sense, and picking any one over the rest is far from straightforward.
Given that this event has produced a triple-figure priced winner in three of the last four years, a strong case could actually be made for avoiding the obvious. However, apart from those surprise winners, all the other six former champions were well-fancied big names, and leaderboards have tended to be high-class. Furthermore, eight out of nine previous champions were European and virtually all the Asians to have challenged here were amongst the best known from this continent, also able to boast overseas experience.
Course and key stats
Hong Kong GC, Fanling is a very short par 70 by modern standards, measuring under 7,000 yards. The par 5s are within everyone’s range, and numerous dog-legs further negate any advantage in driving distance, instead emphasising the importance of accurate iron-play. Greens in regulation and putting average have proved easily the most important statistical disciplines over the years.
4pts IAN POULTER @ 12/1 (GENERAL)
Of the four market principals, Poulter is very marginally preferred, partly due to the fact he’s a bigger price than the two Macs. Along with McDowell and winner Adam Scott, Poulter was outstanding at Sentosa, and the final day could easily have swung his way with a little luck on the greens. Hopefully he can maintain his form like last year, when he won in Singapore before following up with fifth here. The ultimate clincher was reading Ian’s confident mood on Twitter, where he predicts ‘a great week is about to happen’.
1.5pts ew MATTEO MANASSERO @ 40/1 (GENERAL)
Two obvious conclusions can be drawn from Manassero’s short career. Firstly, that he is an extraordinary prospect with a temperament way beyond his years, already world-class with his irons and on the greens. Secondly, that he is still woefully short off the tee in comparison to most rivals. Hong Kong is a course that very much emphasises the former attributes, while minimalising the latter weakness.
1.5pts ew WEN-CHONG LIANG @ 40/1 (GENERAL)
Liang gave us a decent run for our money last week, finishing tenth, and is retained despite shortened odds. He knows this layout well, making the top 25 in each of the last six renewals, and looks easily the strongest home candidate.
1pt ew THOMAS BJORN @ 66/1 (GENERAL)
Bjorn has never missed a cut on this course, and twice made the top four earlier this century. Granted, he may not be quite the same player that contended in Majors, but an improved campaign has largely restored Bjorn’s reputation. Eleven top-20 finishes, including three of the last five and an impressive win in Estoril, show he remains a realistic candidate on courses that suit. His principal weakness nowadays; a lack of driving distance; won’t be a problem here.
0.5pt ew NICK DOUGHERTY @ 125/1 (150/1 TOTE)
Until last week, there was nothing in Dougherty’s recent portfolio to warrant consideration and his previous efforts at Hong Kong are nothing to write home about. However, 25th place barely reflected last week’s vast improvement. Dougherty led the birdie stats at Sentosa, and would have been in contention were it not for a pair of nines. It would seem that he has finally woken up to his predicament, down in 121st place on the Race to Dubai. At his best, 125/1 would be massive.
Similarly, Randhawa is a very speculative pick amongst those needing something special to save playing privileges for next season. Odds of 200/1 fail to reflect the huge gulf between Randhawa’s form on this continent and Europe, where he has missed every cut since finishing tenth at Gleneagles in August. He has been one of the best Asian Tour players over the past decade, and has an exemplary record in Hong Kong, never missing a cut, making five of the last seven top 25s, including third in 2006.