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A disappointing end to the Trophee Hassan II with 55/1 shot Paul Dunne missing out on his first European Tour trophy in a play-off to the fast-finishing Edoardo Molinari who produced a birdie-eagle finish to ultimately force extra time. The Irishman had held a 3-stroke lead on the 5th hole and Pablo Larrazabal, who we'd also backed, was 2nd at the time before drifting out of the each-way places completely by the end. Frustrating of course, however that's how this game pans out sometimes.
To the task at hand then and although not a complete pushover, the course being used for this week's Shenzhen International should provide some welcome relief to those players involved last week in Morocco. Alexander Levy won here in 2014 at -19 when this layout hosted the Volvo China Open before Kiradech Aphibarnrat produced a -12 total in breezier conditions to win the inaugural Shenzhen International 12 months later. Soomin Lee produced a 16-under total last year to earn his maiden European Tour victory in what were at times quite testing conditions.
Over on the PGA Tour, Steve Bamford previews the Valero Texas Open - you can read his thoughts on that event here.
Genzon Golf Club, Shenzhen, China. Designer: Neil Haworth, 1995 with 2008 re-design; Course Type: Resort; Par: 72; Length: 7,145 yards; Water Hazards: 12; Fairways: Paspalum; Rough: Paspalum; Greens: Platinum Paspalum, 10' on the stimp.
Course Overview. Neil Haworth put the finishing touches to his re-design in 2008 with the course having originally opened in 1995 and the clearing of trees and foliage, particularly on the front 9, made the course feel a little more open than it was following those original renovations. The 7,145 yard par 72 features 4 mid-length par 5s and 3 sub-380 yard par 4s that will appeal to the longer hitters, however with Dragon Lake lurking on many of the holes there's certainly an element of accuracy required to avoid the worst of any trouble. Both 9s follow a similar pattern of generally easier holes to allow players to get a decent start to their rounds before the course bites back a little, however in normal conditions the course is scoreable and the par 5s at the 9th, 13th and 17th offer the best eagle opportunities to the more aggressive players.
Tournament Stats. This is the third Shenzhen International, however this course also hosted the 2014 Volvo China Open and those results are also included in this week's stats: Current Form | Course Form | First Round Leader | Top 20 Finishes.
Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.
Winners & Prices. 2016: Soomin Lee, 100/1; 2015: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 40/1; 2014 (Volvo China Open): Alexander Levy, 150/1. For a summary of winners' odds on the European Tour for the past 6 years based on the 2016 schedule click here.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Shenzhen is here. The tournament should enjoy warm and sunny conditions with temperatures in the high 70s Fahrenheit throughout. Rain on Thursday could lead to more of the same on Friday, but this time accompanied by a higher risk of electrical activity, which may well impact play for a while. An overcast weekend is forecast to follow with a small chance of further rain on Sunday. Wind will be light to moderate and shouldn't trouble the professionals.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors.
Using the last two years here and the 2014 Volvo China Open, analysing the final stats of the top 3 finishers here from those events gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
Please note: no stats were captured for Hao-Tong Li who finished 2nd here in 2015, however he's a generally strong ball-striker who averages in the 300 yard region off the tee. Clearly some different routes to success here with ball-striking performances of Fleetwood, Levy and Luiten being balanced by Aphibarnrat and Soomin Lee who both had strong weeks on the greens here. Generally though, a player who can find a lot of greens and have a very strong week with the putter should be in contention on Sunday.
The field here contains a whole host of little-known local players who ply their trade outside of the European Tour, although as Huang Wen-yi who finished 4th in 2015 proved, these local golfers cannot be completely ignored.
Bookmaker Offers: Latest offers and extended each-way places are detailed below.
My selections are as follows:
The top of the betting is dominated by ball-strikers with Tommy Fleetwood, who's finding greens for fun at present, and Ross Fisher who's acquitted himself well at the WGCs and at Augusta in recent weeks, joint favourites with many firms at a best-priced 16/1. Bubba Watson, who's on his annual trip out to China this week, Bernd Wiesberger and Joost Luiten all follow closely behind the top two, however each of those names will need to find a decent week on the putting surfaces here if the last 3 visits to Genzon GC are anything to go by. All things considered, I'm happy to take these 5 on with the course-proven Alexander Levy who should relish a layout that may well get softened by thunderstorms at the start of the event.
The Frenchman converted for us at the Porsche European Open back in September - despite the customary wobble - and he's becoming a past-master at managing weather-impacted events having now won 36, 54 and 72 hole affairs on the European Tour. Whether we get serious enough delays here to impact the tournament's 72 hole schedule remains to be seen, however in these situations backing a player who's more than capable of posting a low round or two early on is never a bad strategy and the 26 year-old has proven himself well capable of that in situations such as this. Rounds of 63 and 61 were enough to take the Portugal Masters title in 2014 and opening efforts of 62 and 63 in Germany last autumn put him in pole position for the third and final round. A second round 62 here on his way to victory at the Volvo China Open in 2014 ties the best effort we've seen from the 3 years of stats we have to hand on this course and Levy clearly enjoys this layout.
A tie for 34th last week may not excite on paper, however an opening 71 had put him just a shot off the lead after the first round on a tough layout that doesn't appeal to his birdie-making style. 4th in Malaysia on his previous start where he made 23 birdies over the course of 4 days is a far more appropriate indicator of where his game is right now, even though that was a few weeks ago now, and 4th in this event last year rubber-stamps his suitability for this course. RESULT: T8
Sitting at home watching The Masters and both WGC events isn't ideal for a player of George Coetzee's ability, however after recovering from his ankle injury the climb back up the OWGR was never likely to be quick. 152nd in the rankings and 2017 form that includes top-8 finishes at the Dubai Desert Classic, Joburg Open and on his last start in India is a decent enough platform from which to build though and despite this being his debut at Genzon, I suspect the risk/reward nature of this course will appeal to the South African.
A previous winner on Paspalum greens (Mauritius 2015) and with a decent record on Asian soil in general, this layout should suit George who's an aggressive sort well capable of attacking the scoreable holes here in China. 8th for Total Driving and 6th for Ball-Striking on his last start in India is encouraging for a player who can also be devastating with the putter when he's on form and if he can put it all together here this week then he's more than capable of taking on the market leaders.
4th at the 2012 China Open, 6th at the BMW Masters that same year as well as 10th in 2014, plus 12th at the WGC HSBC Champions suggests that Coetzee is more than comfortable in this part of the world and after playing 9 weeks straight to begin his 2017 campaign, a decent break was just what the doctor ordered and he may well hit the ground running here now that he's fully refreshed. RESULT: T11
Whilst Edoardo Molinari's win last week in Morocco was painful for backers of Paul Dunne such as myself, the Italian's effort cannot be underestimated as it ended a long period in the golfing doldrums. Having reached as high as 14th in the OWGR back in 2010 - a year which also saw him earn a wildcard pick for the Ryder Cup - things hadn't been anywhere near as straightforward since having had to regain his card last autumn at Q-School and his impressive victory can only be applauded. Whilst not quite as extreme in terms of the overall slump, the correlation with Matteo Manassero's career is clear to see and perhaps Dodo's success will spur on his compatriot this week here in China.
4 European Tour titles in successive years from 2010-13 had the young Italian earmarked as a future golfing superstar, however his lack of length off the tee prompted changes to both his physique and swing and a lack of form that followed significantly knocked his confidence, particularly on the greens where he was always so dangerous. Having dipped as low as 893rd in the world last year, this event proved something of a turning point as a tie for 24th was soon followed by top-13 finishes in Sweden and Germany, plus a 3rd at the Scottish Open, as he started to gain some long game form. That was his best result until India on his penultimate start where a 3rd place finish impressed many and although 48th last week in Morocco hardly jumps off the page, it's worth noting that at 7,600 yards that was a little on the long side for the Verona native. Crucially for me though, the putter was back on song last week and a 1.64 average was his best recorded effort for well over 2 years with the flat stick - a fact that's likely to enthuse Manassero as much as his friend Edoardo's win last week will. RESULT: T39
In an odd-looking betting market there are some truly standout prices available on capable players this week. Fleetwood, Fisher, Watson, Wiesberger, Luiten and the heavily-backed Peter Uihlein comprise a fair chunk of the overall book this week and most of the locals rate as 4-figure chances such is the anticipated strength of their challenge, however in the middle there may be one or two gems to find.
First up, Haydn Porteous who certainly fits the bill from an aggression perspective and having already tasted success on the European Tour at last season's Joburg Open, I think he's more than capable of adding to that tally as his career progresses. At 22 years of age, Porteous is still a little hit-and-miss when it comes to consistency of performances, however that's no bad thing when you look at the winners on this track as Levy, Aphibarnrat and Soomin Lee all fall into the same category in my view. Most of Haydn's best work last year came in the early part of the season with that aforementioned maiden European Tour victory and further success at the Investec Cup in March back on the Sunshine Tour, so perhaps backing him while the early-year focus is still in place is the key with the South African. It's also fair to say that after a stuttering start to 2017 which resulted in 4 straight missed cuts, his play of late has been far, far better. 26th at the Maybank Championship was the turnaround and he threatened to defend his Joburg Open title a fortnight later after opening with a pair of 67s before a final round 72 dropped him to a tie for 23rd in the weather-shortened event. 9th for Total Driving and 5th for Ball-Striking was encouraging though that week and his long game seemed to have lost nothing when he returned to action in Morocco last week after more than a month off as he rated 1st for both of those categories on his way to 13th place. 58th here on debut last year might be nothing more than a red herring for an improving player who should relish this type of challenge, particularly when in control of his long game. RESULT: T45
Finally I'll take a punt on Aussie Andrew Dodt who's playing far better golf than his price suggests. Like Porteous, Dodt is also a winner on the European Tour circuit - twice in fact - and as a regular Asian Tour player he's certainly more used to playing in this part of the world than many of his peers this week. 6th at the 2008 China Classic might be a little distant in terms of relevance, however 3rd at nearby Hong Kong in December is a little more tangible despite the clear differences in course style and composition. The aspect I really like about the 31 year-old this week though is that his wins have always followed some tangible form:
So 2nd at the Australian PGA Championship, 3rd as mentioned in Hong Kong and 6th on his last start at the New Zealand Open is more than enough encouragement for me to get involved at the price on offer, even though his only start here in 2015 ended in a missed cut. Dodt's ball-striking has been strong of late - 3rd for Total Driving and 4th for Ball-Striking in Malaysia on his last recorded effort - and he's streaky enough with the putter to have a solid chance here should he have a good week on the greens here in China. RESULT: T33
Watch these tips on YouTube with Steve Bamford: Golf Betting System YouTube Channel