As we approach the final stages of the European Tour season, we remain in the East once again - this time in Singapore for one of the richest European Tour events of the season. The $6million on offer in terms of prize money has attracted a stellar field with the likes of Phil Mickelson, Graeme McDowell, Justin Rose, YE Yang and Retief Goosen all making an appearance alongside more regular European Tour top performers such as Thomas Bjorn, Simon Dyson and Anders Hansen. Defending Champion Adam Scott is perhaps the most high-profile omission as he's chosen to play the Australian Open instead of defending here.
The format of the tournament changed last season as the field was stretch to over 200 players and an additional course - the Tanjong - was employed on Thursday and Friday for 1 round each. With over 200 players in the field there are some unknown quantities from the Asian Tour to contend with, however with such a large field comes some juicy prices! Some of the bookies have also extended their each way offers to 6 places - I've highlights some of the best prices and offers in my selections below.
The 2 courses are separated by a large wooded hill and sit to the south of Singapore, just inland from the sea, and are best described as parkland courses. Tree-lined and with ponds, creeks and lakes in abundance, the wayward will be punished here and some of the landing areas are really quite tight, however with large greens to find this should suit more accurate types from the tee who can handle the slick Bermuda greens. The Tanjong is around 700 yards shorter than the Serapong and is likely to play considerably easier - well worth noting if you're looking at trading opportunities or first round leader bets.
The weather is likely to play havoc with the event as thunderstorms are forecast throughout the 4 days - they're used to this kind of thing in Singapore though and the drainage is excellent and can transform the course from waterlogged to bone dry (well nearly!) in a matter of hours. Heat and humidity are high and patience during the inevitable delays is key - this won't be everybody's cup of tea so look to players with a history of performing well in this neck of the woods.
My selections for the week then are as follows:
Fatherhood has no doubt changed a few priorities for the younger of the Molinari brothers in recent times, however with a top-15 place in the Race To Dubai - and the riches that brings - firmly within his sights, Francesco has been focussing a little more on his golf over the last few weeks and now could be the time for him to add another trophy to his cabinet. Top 10s in Madrid and at Valderrama in his last 4 starts provide a strong hint that Molinari is approaching top form and I'm backing him to go all the way this week.
With danger lurking all around the Serapong course that will punish the wayward, the consistently accurate Italian will find himself in good stead here. Last year's course debut reaped a solid 21st place, marred only by a poor final round 73, when a top 5 position looked likely after 3 rounds and an improvement over that result is a distinct possibility this time around. That result came off the back of his first WGC victory the previous week so you can easily forgive him for eventually running out of steam.
Usually a poor putter in comparison to many of his peers, Francesco seems to prefer this TifEagle strain of Bermuda more than most with excellent results - and prominent putting performances - in Dubai and Hong Kong on similar surfaces over the last few seasons...I see no reason why that shouldn't continue this week. RESULT: T33
Swedish bomber Karlsson has proven a profitable selection for us over the past year or so with a 50/1 win in Dubai and 100/1 place at Atlanta Athletic Club filling our coffers - this is another great opportunity for us to cash in once again in my view. Perhaps he's off the radar a little with the bookies after spending most of the season in America, however with a top 5 at Colonial and a playoff defeat at St Jude on his CV for 2011 - as well as a FedEx cup campaign which saw him reach as far as Cog Hill - 2011 has hardly been a disaster. What's missing however is a victory and his long, accurate driving and preference for quality Bermuda greens like this make him an automatic selection in my eyes.
Karlsson's last 2 victories came in Qatar and Dubai so in terms of performance in the East he gets a big tick. His playoff defeat this year and last at St Jude came in the searing heat and he quite reasonably should have won both events - for me the conditions and course won't be a problem whatsoever and I'm expecting a big performance from the big Swede this week. RESULT: M/C
The Mechanic is one of those players who seems to come alive once the Ryder Cup campaign starts in earnest and I'm expecting him to put in some outstanding performances in the next 10 months or so as he looks to secure an automatic place on Jose Maria Olazabel's European team. He almost got his current campaign off to a flyer at Valderrama and it was only a resurgent Sergio Garcia who prevented him from grabbing a 19th European Tour title last month. Understandably fatigued from that effort, Sunday's 77 in Shanghai masks what was otherwise a solid performance and the 45/1 chalked up about the Spaniard to win here just has to be taken on.
With career victories in Shanghai (2004 Asian Open), Dubai and twice in Hong Kong, Jimenez clearly enjoys playing his golf in the East and being from Spain he'll find the heat and humidity no problem whatsoever. Regular delays for weather will simply mean that Jimenez can enjoy another cigar rather than get frustrated with the stop-start nature of golf in these parts and I won't be at all surprised to see the jovial Spaniard with a big green on his face on Sunday evening! RESULT: T19
Aussie Fraser is my final selection of the week and he knows that this event is vitally important if he's going to find himself on the plane to Dubai in December. At 73rd on the Race to Dubai, he knows that a top-7 finish here will guarantee him a place in the big-money season finale and he's well worth a punt here at a huge price in my opinion.
Most of his season's earnings came from an excellent 4th place finish at Wentworth, however recent positive performances in Madrid (18th) and Castellon (8th) suggest his form is peaking once again and his tidy tee-to-green game and excellent putting bode well here for this event. With a couple of top 10s in Hong Kong in recent years, Marcus has proven he can play on this kind of surface, and whilst this course will push him in terms of distance off the tee he won't be massively penalised as he keeps himself out of trouble more than most with his accuracy. His last victory in Korea in 2010 was on a course of similar length requiring similar levels of accuracy - it wouldn't be a huge shock from me to see the 33 year old in contention this week at a huge price...RESULT: T46
Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 15:30GMT 8.11.11 but naturally subject to fluctuation.
Fancy playing some online slots for free? Ladbrokes are currently offer 50 Free Spins on their 'Santa's Wild Ride' slot with No Deposit Required - click here to claim your free spins!