The 'Asian Swing' continues this week as the Tour moves to China and we get our first look at the Hollinger-designed Luxehills International Country Club in Chengdu. The course opened in 2007 and this is the first European Tour event to have been played here, however it has hosted tournaments on the OneAsia and Omega China Tour in the past few seasons so isn't a complete unknown quantity.
As always with a new course, we're going to need to rely on specification rather than experience when determining the type of player who might succeed here. China's no.1 Liang Wenchong won the 2010 Luxehills Chengdu Open here with a fine display of ironplay (his biggest strength), so potentially GIR is the key. The fairways are reasonably generous and the greens are large, so accurate irons into the right areas of the putting surface is sure to be a critical factor. At over 7,300 yards, the shorter hitters may also find this a little tougher than recent weeks on the European Tour. However perhaps Luxehills biggest defence is its 142 tough bunkers which litter each hole - either avoid them or bring your best sand game with you, otherwise it's likely dropped shots for a wayward drive/approach shot.
There's a strong field with 8 previous tournament winners and 4 Major champions in attendance, headlined by defending champion YE Yang who currently ranks the 12/1 favourite with Paddy Power. Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia are the main opponents for Yang's favouritism, however I find it difficult to fancy any of these 3 for various reasons: Yang and Harrington have both been struggling with injuries in recent weeks which have hampered otherwise promising improvements in form; Garcia is improving with every outing however he's not sharp enough to win just yet in my view (he will, just not quite yet!). So who do I think will win this...
I've resisted temptation to go with Simon Dyson this week - followers of my tips will know that I rate Dyson highly, however he's best on shorter tracks and this may well be 300 yards too long for him to win, despite some good finishes of late. The ever-consistent Scot Stephen Gallacher made the shortlist, however he's still not getting the job done when in contention for me; similarly Joost Luiten was scrubbed off my list late on for much the same reason. Danny Willett's improvement in form is noteworthy, however I think he's a few weeks away from a pick, plus it wouldn't surprise me to see Rhys Davies bounce back after a tough week now we're back on a quality bentgrass putting surface.
My final 4, however, are as follows: (click here for my spread tips for this event)
Frenchman Bourdy has shown some excellent form in recent weeks and finishes of 20/51/19/2 over his last 4 tournaments bodes well for the 3-time European Tour winner. His last win came in 2009 in Hong Kong, so he'll feel comfortable in this part of the World - perhaps now's the time for him to add a fourth trophy to his cabinet.
Bourdy made 24 birdies in his runners up finish last week and will be disappointed note to have notched a 25th on any of the final 3 holes which would have put him into a playoff with teenage sensation Matteo Manassero. Never mind, his game is in tip-top condition and this course should suit his accurate irons down to the ground and, with a continued hot putter, he'll take some beating this week in my opinion. RESULT: M/C
It's been over 10 years since the Londoner secured his one and only victory on the European Tour in South Africa, however there's signs that a second victory isn't too far away - he was just 2 holes from victory last month in Sicily before finding water on the 17th and missing out on the title by one stroke. Having taken a few weeks to regroup, this is a great chance to pick up on that form in a course which he'll enjoy with his sublime tee-to-green game.
Wall ranks inside the top 25 this season for sand saves which will serve him very well here should he hit the odd wayward shot, plus with excellent bentgrass greens to play with we should find that his sometimes suspect putting stroke is under less pressure here this week. RESULT: M/C
The long-hitting Chilean is the form horse this week with finishes of 3/6 in his last 2 starts and 8 consecutive rounds under par. What's really clicked over the last few weeks is that Aguilar has shaved a couple of tenths off of his putting average - combined with a strong long game this is a potent combination indeed! The last time he was putting like this he ended up winning the Indonesian Open in 2008...you have been warned! RESULT: M/C
Spaniard Garrido is my speculative three-figure selection this week, however with good reason. Indifferent form this season with 4 missed cuts from 8 hardly inspires confidence, however Nacho tends to save his best game for bentgrass putting surfaces and he's proven with his 2 wins on Tour that he can seemingly find form out of nowhere - his last win (Wentworth 2003) followed form of MC/28/MC/53/MC/MC. Garrido will enjoy the width of the fairways this week, meaning his stronger iron and putting game can excel. It's no surprise to me that he missed the cut last week on a tight, fiddly course - this week will be much more to his liking in my opinion, and he could well go close at a long price. RESULT: T62
Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 20:45BST 19.4.11 but naturally subject to fluctuation.
Looking for a new online poker provider? 2 cracking options for you below, both offering great no deposit & welcome bonus offers to get you started - click the banners for more information: