A final European Tour curveball this week in the shape of the tri-sanctioned AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open which is being hosted this year at the Ernie Els-designed Four Seasons GC at Anahita. This is our last excursion away from European soil before we head back to more familiar surroundings, with far stronger fields, starting next week at the K-Club for the Irish Open.
Also this week we have The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass - you can read Steve Bamford's preview of that event here.
Course Overview. The Four Seasons is an Ernie Els design which opened in 2008 and was built to USGA standards. Measuring 7,580 yards from its tips, the course will play as a 7,401 yard, par 72 this week for the professionals with the traditional 10-4-4 split of Par 4s, 3s and 5s with the long 18th ensuring that anything from eagle to double bogey is a possibility as we approach the business end of the tournament. A seaside track with wide fairways that would seem to favour longer hitters, the layout looks spectacular - more detail on the course is available here.
Tournament Stats. Last year's inaugural event was played on a different course so offers little insight into this week's test, the final leaderboard for that tournament and current form stats are here: 2015 Mauritius Open | Current Form
Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available. Big hitters Scott Hend and Nicolas Colsaerts head this week's predictor with Soomin Lee, who nearly backed up his Shenzhen International win with another victory on the OneAsia Tour last week, in third place on the final model.
Winners & Prices. 2015: George Coetzee, 9/1. For a summary of winners' odds on the European Tour for the past 5 years based on the 2016 schedule click here.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Mauritius is here. The tournament should enjoy most dry and warm conditions with temperatures in the low-to-mid 80s Fahrenheit. A brisk south-easterly wind will blow across this coastal layout for most of the event with a fairly consistent 25-30 km/h breeze likely.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors.
Once again we have very little to go on in terms of competitive action on this course. Last year's event was played elsewhere and the only real crumbs of course form we have to go on come from a small end-of-season event held on Mauritius which was last played on this track in December and won by Max Orrin. The final leaderboard for that event is here.
Reports and comments from those players who have been lucky enough to tee it up on this track in the past all point to this stretching layout suiting the longer hitters. Wide fairways are a little more forgiving than other events of recent weeks and the four par-5s measure between 549 and 582 yards which is perfect for the bombers who can get their drives in play from off the tee. The wind, whilst undoubtedly a factor, will at least be consistent so I see that as less of an impact than the 25-30 km/h forecast might suggest, although being a largely exposed coastal layout it will be interesting to see how that aspect affects play - certainly the scoring in the Mauritius Golf Masters event wasn't super low, although with a limited field that may well prove to be a little misleading.
My selections are as follows:
At the top of the betting there's just one name that stands out for me and, despite the price on offer, I've got to back Scott Hend to win here on a layout that suits his powerful long game perfectly. At 80th in the World only Jaco Van Zyl and Soomin Lee rank higher than the 42 year-old Aussie with tournament favourite and defending champion (on a different course) George Coetzee currently residing 9 spots lower following his ankle injury, however of that list plus talented South African Brandon Stone and last week's winner Jeung-hun Wang, I'd still side with Hend given the way this course sets up.
There was a time in the not so distant past where you'd have classified Hend as a one-trick pony with his 310 yard average drives and seemingly little else to offer, however as he's matured as a golfer he's started to produce results on a whole variety of layouts including victory at Fanling in Hong Kong which is one of the more fiddly tracks on the circuit. With his overall improvement has come more consistency with his driving accuracy and irons, plus he can putt extremely well when on form - 1.62 putts per GIR in China on his last start demonstrates that perfectly on a putting surface that I see him as favouring less than the grainier surfaces on Tour. 2016 season form is excellent and he currently sits 14th in the Race to Dubai with a victory in Thailand to his name and further top-8 finishes in Dubai, Shenzhen and China under his belt. Those last two results have come in Hend's last two starts and with a week's rest in between and clearly in great nick, I make him the man to beat this week in Mauritius. RESULT: T12
I've backed Nicolas Colsaerts a few times recently on seemingly suitable tracks and I'm going to stick to my guns again this week on this Four Seasons layout that plays right into the hands of the Belgian Bomber. Of the few players in this field with any kind of course experience, Colsaerts can at least draw on his tie for 4th here last December in the Mauritius Golf Masters event and against a weak field his power advantage could well prove to be important when it comes to compiling a competitive score.
Despite not really being in the mix so far in 2016, his recent form is far from disastrous with a top-10 finish recorded in Thailand in March and 15th on his last start in China where he produced identical 83.3% GIR stats over both events and after some intensive practice at Finca Cortesin, where we won his last European Tour event back in 2012, perhaps he'll hit the ground running as he returns to his 'second home' here. Colsaerts is sponsored by Anahita and spends as much time as possible in the off-season and between events practicing here and that experience must surely be an advantage, "I just love the place and I think Ernie has done an unbelievable job with the golf course. It’s one of the most enjoyable courses for professionals and amateurs to play. You have this unbelievable golf course on an incredible piece of land over the lagoon. On a good day, and a bad day, it’s probably my favourite place to play golf." he said. RESULT: T3
Afrasia Bank ambassador Max Orrin has been looking forward to this event for the past six months having successfully defended his Mauritius Golf Masters trophy on this track last December. That small end-of-season event may not have impacted his OWGR status, however the 21 year-old from Kent has been progressing nicely through the ranks courtesy of two Challenge Tour victories over the past two seasons; he's surely on the cusp of breaking through to the European Tour in a full-time capacity and he could well fast-track that goal with victory here this week. 22nd last week was a decent enough warm-up for this event, especially when you consider that he led the all-round ranking statistic for the field in Morocco, and the former Walker Cup star is plenty long enough to compete on this track as he's already proven of course at the end of last year. 11th for driving distance and 1st for accuracy at the Trophee Hassan II is a potent combination on a track that will allow for attacking play from further up these wide fairways and another personal best at this level following last week's effort is eminently achievable. RESULT: MC
With Haotong Li, Soomin Lee and Jeung-hun Wang winning over the past three weeks on the European Tour, digging out another young talent with the potential to secure their first victory at this level makes a level of sense. Indian Rashid Khan has long been touted as one of golf's up-and-coming stars and the 25 year-old has already captured 6 professional titles in his short career, including two on the Asian Tour, and looks more than capable of cutting it at this kind of level. The success of compatriot Anirban Lahiri who's now a multiple European Tour winner and Major top-5 finisher will only have spurred on the New Delhi man who's already finished inside the PGTI order of merit three times in his career. We haven't seen Khan since he recorded his best finish at European Tour level on his last start at the Indian Open 6 weeks ago, however that effort followed a solid 25th the week before in Thailand and he topped the putting stats with a fabulous 1.52 putts per GIR which suggests that aspect of his game was in decent shape. Long enough off the tee without being overly accurate, the wide fairways here at the Four Seasons resort will allow players like Khan to open their shoulders and attack and he has nothing too fear in this field. RESULT: T27
Catching Tano Goya on the right week isn't an easy task, however in this strength of field on a course that should suit his long but largely inaccurate driving he's worth a chance at the price on offer in my view. One thing that we know with the 27 year-old is that he's capable of getting over the line when presented with the opportunity at lower levels - 4 OWGR ranking events from 222 starts is actually far better than it sounds in this field and you can add another couple of professional victories to that tally over the years that weren't part of the rankings too. One of those successes came in Madeira on just his 6th start on the European Tour at a level not dissimilar to this and the Argentinean knows that he's got to make the most of his limited starts on the Tour proper if he's going to get back to playing at this level on a more regular basis. Despite finishing 2nd in last year's Russian Open, one aspect of his game that Tano's struggled with for some time now has been his putting so it's interesting to note that last week's effort in Morocco, where he eventually finished 22nd, featured his best performance with the flat stick relative to the field for over 5 years. If that improvement has provided the necessary shot in the arm to boost his confidence overall then he could prove to be an interesting dark horse this week. RESULT: T3
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