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We stay in China after George Coetzee's 72nd hole implosion robbed us of the chance of a 40/1 winner last week in Shenzhen. The South African stood on the final hole with a share of the lead and massive momentum after back-to-back birdies, however the final birdie required for victory, or par for a play-off place, was soon a distant memory after he found the water twice meaning he failed to even so much as place in the end. Frustration again after Paul Dunne's play-off loss the week before in Morocco, however let's hope it's 3rd time lucky this week as we head to the Ian Woosnam-designed Topwin Golf and Country Club on the outskirts of Beijing.
Topwin Golf & CC, Beijing, China. Designer: Ian Woosnam, 2009; Course Type: Parkland; Par: 72; Length: 7,261 yards; Water Hazards: 15; Fairways: Kentucky Bluegrass; Rough: Kentucky Bluegrass: Bentgrass, 10' on the stimp.
Course Overview. Topwin Golf and Country Club is an exclusive Private Members Club carved from the rural countryside in the Hills of Huairou and boasts views of the Great Wall of China on virtually every hole. Ian Woosnam designed the 7,261 yard par 72 which opened in 2011 and the parkland layout features reasonably generous fairways that are lined in part with fruit and pine trees, plus water comes into play in some shape or form on most holes. The course hosted its first professional event in this fixture 12 months ago.
Tournament Stats. Please note, only last year's renewal was played on this track - all previous Volvo China Opens were held elsewhere and event form should be considered accordingly: Current Form | Event 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. Haotong Li, 100/1; 2015: Ashun Wu, 200/1; 2014: Alex Levy, 150/1; 2013: Brett Rumford, 50/1; 2012: Branden Grace, 60/1; 2011: Nicolas Colsaerts, 80/1; 2010: YE Yang, 14/1. 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 Beijing is here. In contrast to last week's weather in Shenzhen, this week should see fine, warm and sunny conditions throughout with only the breeze likely to keep a lid on the scoring, although even then it should only reach around 25 km/h at worst in the afternoons.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors. No official stats were recorded for winner Haotong Li 12 months ago, however those players who achieved punters an each-way payout fared as follows:
It's difficult to read a massive amount into last year's event as there was a real mix of ball-strikers and putters who graced the top of the leaderboard which suggests that this course doesn't favour any one particular type of player. To get into the top 20 here last year, players still needed to be producing around 20 or more birdies over the course of the 4 days which is no mean feat, particularly as two of the par 5s (4th and 12th) both played around par for the week given their length at over 600 yards each. Players who compiled a competitive score took advantage of the easier par 5s at the 8th and 18th, plus the short par 4s at the 11th and 15th.
Last year's event produced some odd results with only Richard Bland (3rd) having much in the way of tangible form coming into the event. Eventual winner Haotong Li had immediate form of MC/57/MC before winning here and similar results were evident for the placed players other than Bland, however it's fair to say that the events immediately prior were particularly tough on contenders with a gruelling 4 days at Valderrama followed by a very stop-start affair in Shenzhen, so perhaps those with a light schedule (even through poor finishes) were at an advantage 12 months ago. It hasn't been quite so extreme this year in the run-up to this event, so perhaps we'll see something more predictable this time around.
Bookmaker Offers: Latest offers and extended each-way places are detailed below.
My final Volvo China Open tips are as follows:
It's difficult to dispute the chances of favourites Bernd Wiesberger and Ross Fisher this week - both played some excellent golf last week and whilst Austrian Wiesberger let his 4-stroke lead slip, he did at least have the composure to par the 72nd hole and take the event to a play-off which is more than can be said for some. Fisher was also tied for the lead going up the final hole which he subsequently bogeyed, however this week's assignment - back on bentgrass greens to boot - should suit both men nicely if they can lift themselves again straight away here. The one subtle difference this week to last though is that the winner is likely to need to find another half dozen or so birdies over the course of the week and to that end I'm sticking with Alexander Levy who showed enough after a poor start to suggest that he can gain his second Volvo China Open title here this week.
After a stuttering 74 in the first round last week, nobody in the field bettered the Frenchman's final 3 rounds which took just 201 strokes and featured an outstanding round of 64 on Saturday to give him a fighting chance on the final day from an unlikely position. After a promising start on Sunday he played the final 8 holes in 1-over par to finish 3 strokes back of the play-off in 8th position, however he clearly took the positives out of his play judging by his comments on social media and can approach this week's task with confidence. The 26 year-old has an excellent record in China generally having never missed a cut in this part of the world on the European Tour with finishes of 2nd (2014 BMW Masters) and 4th (2016 Shenzhen International) to add to his 1st and 3rd place finishes in this event in 2014 & 2015. 28th here last year on course debut featured a massive 84.7% of greens hit in regulation - with his game trending nicely I can see him contending strongly here this week. RESULT: Winner
I backed Pablo Larrazabal at the Trophee Hassan II a fortnight ago following Sergio Garcia's Masters triumph and although the Spaniard ultimately disappointed, 13th there was far from disastrous and he followed that up with an 11th place finish last week in Shenzhen. The justification for siding with the 33 year-old in Morocco was as much down to the positivity that his compatriot's success at Augusta could bring as to his own record in the country and recent form, however after a bogey-free weekend at the Genzon Golf Club we now also have some clear, tangible form to add to his undoubted enthusiasm and desire to succeed.
As I've said before, you should always take what Pablo says on twitter with a pinch of salt - many a time has he proclaimed to be playing very nicely indeed before missing the cut - however it's difficult to ignore his assertion that he's playing some of the best golf of his career at present given last weekend's evidence, so an attackable golf course such as this track in Beijing may well be just what the doctor ordered whilst he's making birdies for fun. 3 top-10s in nearby Hong Kong, 3 more top-10s at this event itself over the years plus notable efforts in the higher-grade BMW Masters and HSBC Champions events held in China in the recent past all add up to a positive CV in this part of the world and with his confidence high I wouldn't be surprised to see him lift his 5th European Tour trophy here this week. RESULT: 3rd
While the birdies where flying in for most players on Sunday in Shenzhen, backers of Dean Burmester will have been pulling their hair out as he not so much drifted him a 3rd place position going into the final day but disappeared out of sight. A 6-over final round of 78, compounded by a bogey-triple finish, meant that the South African finished completely out of the equation in 39th having promised so much more after rounds of 67,70 & 68 had put him in contention yet again. One bad round doesn't mean much in the bigger scheme of things to a professional golfer though and it's fair to say that the South African has been operating at a high enough level of late to bounce back with a vengeance here this week on a course that sets up well for those who are willing and capable of attacking the birdie holes.
With his Tshwane Open victory from last month tucked away, the 27 year-old has no reason to fear any of his opponents at this kind of level and the next target has surely got to be to improve on his current OWGR ranking of 105th so he can earn his place at some of golf's top events over the remainder of this year and next. 11th for putting on the European Tour for the season to date is positive given that birdies are here to be made and he should find the short par 4s and two reachable par 5s very much to his liking this week, despite missing the cut here 12 months ago. RESULT: T65
Englishman Matthew Southgate burst onto the scene in the middle of last year when he finished 4th behind Rory McIlroy at the Irish Open before producing an excellent 4 days at Royal Troon to finish 12th on just his second Major Championship start. Having recovered from testicular cancer the year before, it was great to see the 28 year-old find some form on the European Tour and it's perhaps a surprise that we haven't seen him push on significantly since that time. Combined with an 11th place finish at Le Golf National it would be easy to pigeonhole the Southend man as a lover of tough tracks, however 7th at the European Open (66,67,67) and 17th in Portugal (68,67,66,67) suggests to me that he's just as comfortable on a low-scoring resort course and could easily go well here. 14th last week at Shenzhen was his best effort of 2017 to date and he topped the putting charts with a 1.57 average over the 4 days whilst hitting 75% of fairways - given this layout is a little easier from tee-to-green we could well find that his GIR improves again this week which would make him very dangerous if the putter remains hot. RESULT: T42
First Round Leader Market
I backed Andrew Dodt outright last week and although he could muster nothing better than a 33rd place finish overall, there was plenty to like in his long game to suggest that a low round is possible as soon as that streaky putter of his clicks. 75% of fairways and 81.9% of greens in regulation (5th in the field) put his ball-striking at the upper end of the field based on last week's evidence and he signed off with a bogey-free 67 on Sunday to build some momentum and confidence ahead of this week. Twice a first round leader in his last 24 events (66, 2016 Mauritius Open and 65, 2016 Australian PGA Championship) and with a 6.50am tee time, he'll get first use of the greens here on Thursday and should be finished before the wind picks up from lunchtime onwards. RESULT: Lose
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