Before I go into my preamble this week, a quick word of congratulations to 2 of our punters league members - Dave & Craig - who correctly tipped Thomas Bjorn to win in Qatar at 200/1 last week...that is truly top tipping! If you'd like to join in, we run a weekly competition on our facebook group where you can win a £25 free bet with Paddy Power simply by predicting who will win each week’s events – it’s great fun and free to join, here’s a link to the page for you to place your picks & predictions: http://www.facebook.com/groups/254181393361
Once again we have a cracking field ahead of us in Dubai for what is the final instalment of the desert swing and there's already something of a rarity this week - Tiger Woods is not the favourite! That honour instead goes to Martin Kaymer who is top priced 5/1 with Extrabet; the former World number 1 is available at 13/2 with Unibet - if you fancy a bit of that then click here for a £20 no lose bet with Unibet, what have you got to lose?!
Also in attendance at the 7,301 yard par 72 Emirates Golf Club are World Number 1 (an incredible 12/1 with Paddy Power) and former winner Rory McIlroy (7/1 with William Hill) as well as a whole host of top players from the European Tour. One notable name missing is Francesco Molinari who became a proud father last week of a baby boy - we wish him our congratulations!
On to the business of picking a winner then. History has shown that hitting greens is the key statistic here - once on board the putting surfaces are pretty flat and reasonably speedy (at least by standard of the last couple of weeks!) Bermuda overseeded with Poa Trivialis. Length isn't a particular advantage here, however all winners in the last 7 years had recorded at least 1 top-10 finish in their previous 3 starts, so someone in good nick is required.
The long-range weather forecast suggests a breezy weekend after a calm start, so we may well see some significant changes to the leaderboard over the weekend - I'd favour proven ball-strikers in good form with their irons, who'll prefer the quicker greens.
No doubt the focus will be on the top players once again, however with the exception of Martin Kaymer I can't say that any of them are in tournament-winning form. Even Kaymer looked off colour last week in Qatar, so I'd much prefer to find some value as opposed to picking a risky single-figure player.
My selections this week:
I backed the Spaniard last week and make no excuse for sticking with him again after a poor weekend in Qatar. Truth is, Jimenez is striking his irons as well as he ever has at present and the faster greens will also help to ease his frustration with the flat stick of the last fortnight.
The defending champion finished 2nd in Bahrain a fortnight ago and his price reflects last week's effort as opposed to his underlying form and is worthy of a strong each-way punt. Last year he won after finishing 66th in Qatar with a similarly poor weekend - I reckon he could upstage the favourites here at a cracking price. RESULT: T40
Two Scots in my team this week, the first of which is Gallacher who is putting together a string of quality performances and his 2nd win on Tour - following his 2004 triumph in his homeland - is surely just around the corner.
An impressive display of ironplay in Bahrain where he his 63 of 72 greens catapulted him into the each way places, plus 12th last week wasn't too shabby. A final round 76 here last year ruined what had been a promising tournament and I'd expect him to take the positive elements of that - in particular a flawless 67 in round 3 - into this week. RESULT: T10
After prising himself away from the commentary box, Howell has been quietly setting about his business and is now approaching form that's worthy of backing. The 1999 winner of this event has notched up another 3 wins since then - including in Munich in 2005 which carries positive form lines into this event - and is showing strong indications that another win is on the cards.
Other than a missed cut in Bahrain, the Englishman has finishes of 13/33/23/5 this term and his most recent effort came after an opening 75 in tough conditions - he shot 11 under from Friday onwards to finish in an E/W position with some strong all-round play as his irons consistently found the putting surface. Well worth a speculative each way punt this week. RESULT: M/C
After Thomas Bjorn romped home at 200/1 last week, I fancy a bit of that kind of action myself and the straight-hitting Scot could be just the man to line our pocket. Winner of last season's South African Open, the 27 year old from Aberdeen fits the bill on many levels here. Tee-to-green there's few who are in his league - last week he led the way in terms of driving accuracy and was 5th for GIR; in Bahrain he was 6th and 4th for the same stats respectively when finishing in a tie for 8th. With water in play on 10 of the holes, keeping out of trouble will be a distinct advantage.
As is so often the case with this type of player, his performance on the greens is what prevents him from winning far too often. However, faster greens tend to mask these frailties to a degree and the key stat for me is that he finished 3rd behind Francesco Molinari at the WGC HSBC Champions in November where a stimp of 12 helped both players to perform at their best, despite their poor putting. Ramsay is also my ton-plus top for the week. RESULT: T31
Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 21:30GMT but naturally subject to fluctuation