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After the trials and tribulations of an exceptionally testing Vaderrama last week, we once again leave European soil as the Tour heads East and into China for the next fortnight. Morocco (Trophee Hassan II) then Mauritius follows before we return back to Europe in a month's time as we revisit the K-Club for the Irish Open before the European Tour's flagship event at Wentworth.
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 Spain. 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 ago. The big talking point this week however may well be the forecast thunderstorms which threaten to interfere with play considerably from Friday onwards.
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.
Tournament Stats. This is the second Shenzhen International, however this course also hosted the 2014 Volvo China Open and both results are 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. 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 5 years based on the 2016 schedule click here.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Shenzhen is here. The tournament should enjoy a warm and sunny start with temperatures in the high 70s Fahrenheit on Thursday before the risk of thunderstorms increases to 90% likelihood throughout the weekend.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors.
Using last year's event 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 last year, 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 and Levy being balanced by Aphibarnrat who in typical fashion putted his way to success 12 months ago. Any analysis could be overkill though this week if we experience a stop-start or even reduced event which will put the emphasis very much on a fast start and patient attitude during the inevitable delays.
The field is headed by Bubba Watson who continues to support the odd event outside of the US without really justifying his price on the European Tour itself. Undoubtedly the world no.4 has the talent and game to succeed here, however I do question his attitude and patience if there's a lot of hanging around and uncertainty this week. Aphibarnrat has the added burden of defending whereas at a similar price Joost Luiten may well feel the effects of being in the heat of battle at Valderrama right until the bitter end 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 last year proved, these local golfers cannot be completely ignored. My final Shenzhen International tips are as follows:
With a weather forecast that has the potential to all but ruin this event, I'll be playing this week very cautiously with a reduced overall stake. The forecast thunderstorms from Friday onwards may not arrive of course, however it certainly looks pretty bleak at the time of writing and getting anywhere close to 4 rounds of golf could be a real challenge here in China this week. Siding with players who can get out of the blocks quickly is one option and until the news of Peter Uihlein's stolen putter emerged he was on my shortest of shortlists, however a reluctant yet very able replacement for my headline selection is Alexander Levy.
The Frenchman produced the lowest round of the week on Thursday last week in Spain on a track that doesn't play to his strengths and taking that form to Genzon where he won the Volvo China Open in 2014 could well be a potent combination. The demands of Valderrama finally caught up with the 25 year-old with a 3rd round 81, however a solid 2-under finish on Sunday sets him up nicely for this week and if he can get out of the blocks quickly this week then it could well be game on.
The other European Tour success for 'El Toro' holds some relevance too as it came at the weather-affected 36 hole affair in Portugal in 2014 - Levy produced a flawless 2 rounds between the numerous weather delays to record an 18-under total and beat Nicolas Colsaerts - who'd opened with a sublime round of 60 - by three strokes. Some players lose focus when the delays set in, however Levy clearly embraced the situation to birdie every other hole over the two rounds that were completed. 2016 form has been solid prior to last week's tie for 14th in Spain with 5 consecutive weekends made, a 24th place finish in Malaysia where he led the Total Driving category and 2nd in Perth where he nearly chased down Louis Oosthuizen. 12 under on the par 5s that week was 2nd in the field in that respect and his putter was hot that week too with just 1.63 putts per GIR required which again was 2nd in the field. RESULT: T4
Another player who signed off a tough week at Valderrama with a positive round was Thorbjorn Olesen and he's the type of player who I feel could take to this course very nicely indeed on competitive debut around these parts. When the Dane gets his putter going he can be exceptional and he'll surely build on his 3 European Tour victories now that he's recovered from last year's wrist injury and playing with a very positive attitude. At 67th in the World he's on the cusp of the top-50 berth that he'll need to give him access to enough of the top events this season to give him a fighting chance of making the Ryder Cup team which isn't out of the realms of possibility with his Alfred Dunhill Links victory last term counting towards that goal.
The 26 year-old got off to a flying start in China at the HSBC Champions last November with an opening round of 64 on his way to a top-20 finish, however his early season form in the Middle East where he finished 2nd in Qatar (2nd for GIR) and 8th in Dubai (5th in putting, 1.63 putts per GIR) is equally as noteworthy. When the Dane starts hitting fairways and greens he's a very dangerous player so last week's top-10 ball-striking effort shouldn't be discounted, even if the headline numbers on that brutal course don't jump off the page - in relative terms he played very nicely from tee-to-green at Valderrama and we know he can putt lights out having recorded a phenomenal 1.43 putts per GIR on his return from injury last year in Mauritius. RESULT: T8
If the weather does impact this week's schedule, as looks fairly likely at this stage, then having a lively outsider or two on the team makes a level of sense. Of the few that caught my eye, Pelle Edberg also came close to inclusion in my team at 100/1 given that he's the kind of hit-and-miss player who could get out of the blocks quickly here and benefit if the event is curtailed. All things considered though, I'm going for Nicolas Colsaerts who is a GIR monster with the ability every now and then to go super low as was evident when he finished runner-up to Alex Levy at the aforementioned 2014 Portugal Masters.
The 33 year-old Belgian Bomber has a previous victory in China to his name (2011 Volvo China Open) as well as two further top-10 finishes in the same event, plus a 6th place finish at the 2014 BMW Masters, and he clearly feels comfortable in this part of the world. On a track with a full compliment of attackable par 5s, a high GIR performer with the length advantage of Colsaerts could well be a contending combination and I'm more than happy to write off last week's missed cut on the wholly incompatible Valderrama and instead focus on his previous effort in Thailand which produced the Belgian's first top-10 finish of the season courtesy of a GIR performance of 83.3%. RESULT: T58
Every now and then a player catches your eye for some obscure reason and demands to be backed at a silly price. On the face of it, the form of Daniel Brooks is perhaps worthy of his quoted odds - MC/MC/MC/31/68 for his last 5 events and finishing rock bottom of those players who managed all four days at Valderrama seems to suggest he's got little to no chance of making the frame here this week. Golf doesn't work like that though as we all know and the Englishman is just the kind of player who can pop up every now and then with a strong performance when you least expect it, as he demonstrated once again at the South African Open in his first start of 2016 when he finished 3rd.
The 29 year-old was struggling with illness during the Middle East swing and felt that his missed cut in Thailand and tie for 31st in India didn't really do justice to how well he's been playing - he tied 4th for ball-striking in India which is no mean feat on that layout - so I get the impression that he's not far away from another big performance. I suppose you could draw on the Danny Willett factor which could boost the performance of his compatriots in the short term - born within 10 months of each other and both having recently become fathers for the first time, Willett's Augusta success could certainly be a shot in the arm for the Basildon man - however of more tangible note there's the rain-shortened Madeira Islands Open victory in 2014 to draw upon in what's again likely to be a very stop-start event. Yes, a punt I agree, however one that rewards handsomely if Brooks can find his very dangerous putting prowess here this week in China. RESULT: T51
Our predictions for the 2017 Shenzhen International will be published here on the Tuesday before the event.
Watch these tips on YouTube with Steve Bamford: Golf Betting System YouTube Channel