Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Bahrain Championship Tips 2024

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Callum Shinkwin threatened to make it a fantastic week in Ras al Khaimah, starting off with a blistering 10-under par to lead by two after the first day with us on board at 100/1 outright. Following up such a low round is never easy through and the Englishman finally had to settle for a tie for 4th, using every one of 8 each-way places to secure a full place payout. Congratulations if you, unlike me, kept faith in Thorbjorn Olesen who converted his 8th Tour title in fine style.

On we go and the Bahrain Championship is another new event for us to tackle this week, having already had the inaugural Dubai Invitational added to the 2024 schedule earlier in the month. Similar to that event at Dubai Creek we do have some minor Tour and older European Tour results to peruse, albeit limited, however in contrast to the 2024 curtain-raised from 3 weeks ago we have a regular sized field of 132 in attendance this week and a halfway cut of 65 players and ties.

Last week’s winner Thorbjorn Olesen was a Monday lunchtime withdrawal, which has left Rasmus Hojgaard as the clear 10/1 favourite as he looks to convert a form line that reads 11/11/2 since the start of 2024. Even a weekend off seemingly can’t budge Jordan Smith from his familiar berth as second favourite at 18/1, with the likes of Yannik Paul, Keita Nakajima and Zander Lombard following on swiftly behind.

Before we go into more detail and my final Bahrain Championship tips, we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System as the golfing year kicks off. Welcome to you all and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published every Tuesday of the golfing calendar), the Steve Bamford Golf Channel on YouTube, and our hugely popular, 6,300-strong private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

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Course Overview: Royal Golf Club is a 7,261 yard par 72 desert course that some of you may vaguely recall from the 2011 Volvo Golf Champions held here, which was won by Paul Casey.

A Colin Montgomerie design that was constructed in 2008, a recent renovation has seen bunkers and greens rebuilt to adhere to current DP World Tour specification with the objective of improving the scope for fair pin positions and creating bigger, flatter putting surfaces.

The course itself is an exposed, desert affair with reasonably generous fairways leading to firm, well-bunkered greens. Water is in play towards the end of the round and although Paul Casey got to 20-under back in 2011, the general consensus is that this course would present a fairly stiff challenge whenever there’s a fairly stiff breeze blowing across it.

As part of the renovation, the Paspalum grass was removed from putting surfaces and kept alive while the work was undertaken, then replaced afterwards, so it could remain in great condition for this week’s event. Flatter greens will allow the course superintendent to increase stimp speeds, so I’m expecting fairly firm, fast surfaces this week.

An even 36/36 split with two par-5s on each half, the stretch from 9 through to 14 is likely to be the most scoreable with 3 of the par-5s, 2 short par-4s, and the track’s shortest par-3 featured in those 6 holes.

bahrain championship tips

Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s Bahrain Championship that will help to shape a view on players who may play well at this event.

As noted above, this is the inaugural event with some very patchy stats available from various tournaments held here, so course history needs to be considered accordingly: Current Form | Course Form | First Round Leader Stats | Combined Form/Course Stats.

Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.

Course Winners: 2020: MENA Tour, David Hague (207 strokes, 3 rounds); 2019: MENA Tour, Robin Roussel (204 strokes, 3 rounds); 2011: Volvo Golf Champions (European Tour) Paul Casey (268 strokes, 4 rounds).

Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Bahrain is here.

The main feature this week is likely to be a fairly stiff northerly wind blowing across the region which will introduce cloudy conditions and keep the temperature down to around 70 Fahrenheit, give or take.

Thursday looks the most placid of the 4 days with a 10-15mph wind, however from Friday onwards it looks like 20-25mph is to be expected which will likely make this layout play on the challenging side.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors. Fortunately we do have some basic stats from the event held here in 2011 on the European Tour, won by Paul Casey:

  • 1st: Paul Casey (-20); 303 yards (5th), 66.7% fairways (25th), 74.1% greens in regulation (52nd), 71.4% scrambling (17th), 1.65 putts per GIR (6th)
  • 2nd: Peter Hanson (-19); 292 yards (28th), 73.2% fairways (15th), 80.6% greens in regulation (17th), 78.6% scrambling (8th), 1.67 putts per GIR (8th)
  • 2nd: Miguel Angel Jimenez (-19); 285 yards (48th), 76.8% fairways (7th), 87.5% greens in regulation (1st), 88.9% scrambling (3rd), 1.78 putts per GIR (43rd)
  • 4th: Stephen Gallacher (-18); 310 yards (3rd), 46.4% fairways (64th), 87.5% greens in regulation (1st), 55.6% scrambling (50th), 1.71 putts per GIR (16th)
  • 5th: Robert Karlsson (-17); 307 yards (4th), 78.6% fairways (4th), 66.7% greens in regulation (63rd), 87.5% scrambling (4th), 1.63 putts per GIR (3rd)

13 years and a renovation have passed since Paul Casey proved triumphant here for our one and only piece of analysis so caution needs to be exercised, however with the bulk of the changes having come from the second shot and in I suspect we can infer a little from this solitary data point.

Fairways are described as quite generous and that’s fairly evident from the stats with 60% or better accuracy fairly commonplace. The differentiating factors came from those who were either relentless with their GIR performance, or those who managed to scramble and putt sufficiently well to remain in contention when greens were missed.

In terms of the scoring mix of our top 5 finishers, similar to the skill stats above there were different ways to contend around here:

  • Paul Casey: Par 3: -3; Par 4: -3; Par 5: -14; Eagles: 2; Birdies: 22; Bogeys/Worse: 5
  • Peter Hanson: Par 3: -2; Par 4: -4; Par 5: -13; Eagles: 3; Birdies: 19; Bogeys/Worse: 6
  • Miguel Angel Jimenez: Par 3: -1; Par 4: -11; Par 5: -7; Eagles: 1; Birdies: 22; Bogeys/Worse: 5
  • Stephen Gallacher: Par 3: -5; Par 4: -6; Par 5: -7; Eagles: 1; Birdies: 21; Bogeys/Worse: 5
  • Robert Karlsson: Par 3: Even; Par 4: -10; Par 5: -7; Birdies: 20; Bogeys/Worse: 3

The Par-5s are clearly scoreable judging by Casey and Hanson’s totals, however the other 3 finishers proved that scoring heavily on the Par-4s is also a viable approach. The only consistent factor between all 5 finishers was mistakes were kept to a minimum across the week.

Incoming Form: The top 3 finishers here in 2011 had all recorded a top-8 finish or better in one of their last 4 starts, and in 5th place Robert Karlsson we had the winner of the Dubai World Championship as it was known back in the day:

  • Paul Casey: 74/3/MC/22/12/12/25/2/4/6/6/18
  • Peter Hanson: 6/37/34/8/58/1/19/MC/47/6/13/MC
  • Miguel Angel Jimenez: MC/7/3/1/15/36/7/41/8/MC/48/11
  • Stephen Gallacher: 27/18/16/14/MC/17/MC/MC/50/47/51/31
  • Robert Karlsson: 14/7/65/16/MC/42/29/2/34/4/1

Stephen Gallacher was the only player in the top 5 who it would have been difficult to have made a case for here 13 years ago, going on current form alone.

From the little that we have to go on this week, it would seem that there are different approaches to success here in normal conditions – however the prospect of some fairly significant wind changes the equation somewhat in my view. I suspect that a 20mph breeze will make this course play fairly tough and put an emphasis on quality ball-striking and scrambling when greens are inevitably missed, particularly if the renovated greens prove to be on the firm side which is often the case.

My selections are as follows:

Alex Fitzpatrick 2pts EW 30/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

The Monday withdrawal of last week’s winner Thorbjorn Olesen has further weakened an already fairly low-grade affair and that could well open the door for Alex Fitzpatrick to record his breakthrough win at DP World Tour level.

The talk of last week was about the potential for a Hojgaard double with the twins both in contention in their respective events, ultimately both finishing runner-up, however I suspect the Fitzpatrick brothers will create similar excitement in the near future and potentially as soon as this week with Matt teeing it up at Pebble Beach.

Since securing his maiden professional title at the Challenge Tour’s British Challenge in August, Alex has gone on to miss just one cut at DP World Tour level, having come closest to winning when finishing 2nd at the ISPS Handa World Invitational a couple of weeks after his aforementioned victory.

5th at Crans when carrying our money was a positive result, as was 8th at the Australian Open to complete his 2023 campaign. 2024 has started off brightly too with matching 16th place finishes at both the Dubai Desert Classic and last week in Ras al Khaimah, with his closing bogey-free 66 amongst the very best rounds of the day to finish the 4 days on a high.

With a freshly renovated course and greens that have been peeled off and re-laid, the potential for firm putting surfaces is high this week; coupled with breezy conditions from Friday onwards, how a player performs around the greens could trump every other aspect this week and in that respect Fitzpatrick fits the bill beautifully.

16th for Scrambling for the 2023 season for the events that he completed at DP World Tour level, the 25 year-old currently ranks 2nd on Tour for the early 2024 stats on the same metric, behind Adam Scott who’s only played 4 recorded rounds. 1st for SG Around the Green last week at Al Hamra further reinforces his state of short game, and with just 97 putts required overall last week he’s clearly feeling great around the putting surfaces, even if his irons were a little awry in Ras al Khaimah. Any sort of correction from the Sheffield star in that respect this week and he could well record his first victory at the upper level this week. RESULT: MC

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Sebastian Soderberg 2pts EW 30/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfred

Rasmus Hojgaard warrants favouritism and the utmost respect this week, however a shorter course and the prospect of some wind levels the playing field a little this week and I’m happy to look elsewhere given the price on offer.

At a similar point in the market to my headline selection, Sebastian Soderberg has done enough of late to warrant inclusion in this week’s staking plan with 9th in Ras Al Khaimah extending his cut-making sequence by yet another event as the Swede hasn’t failed to make the weekend now since July of last year.

10th at the Barracuda Championship, 5th at the Dunhill Links, 6th at the Nedbank and 3rd in Mauritius were the highlights in the second half of 2023, and the 33 year-old has continued that fine form into 2024 with finishes of 23rd and 41st in the Dubai double-header before last week’s effort.

20th for Scrambling so far for the 2024 season is a positive improvement over last year’s full season stats and bodes well for this week’s task, particularly as his short game looked on point having got up-and-down over 80% of the time last week at Al Hamra. The putter was also in fine form, ranking 5th for putting average and 5th for total putts over the 4 days.

Soderberg’s breakthrough win came at Crans-sur-Sierre back in 2019, fending off Rory McIlroy and three others in that huge play-off for the title. That success followed a top-10 finish on his previous start, however it’s the nature of some of his subsequent lofty finishes which ultimately gets him the nod here.

5th at the 2020 Wales Open came in tricky, breezy conditions, and he’s gone on to record runner-up finishes at Valderrama (2021) and The Belfry (2022) to reinforce the point that he can handle less than optimum scoring conditions.

2nd at Yas Links at last year’s Abu Dhabi Championship was at Rolex Series level which eclipses much of the form on show here this week, plus it came on Paspalum greens where he ranked 4th for SG Putting. Contending for a second Tour title in a far lower quality of field this week is quite feasible in my view. RESULT: T6

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Darren Fichardt 1pt EW 150/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

A missed cut last week in Ras al Khaimah has kept a lid on the price of Darren Fichardt, however a bomber-friendly low-scoring affair is never likely to be the South African’s strongest suit and I’ll happily take a chance on him on what should be a far more suitable test this week.

In fairness, the 48 year-old was never likely to recover from an opening round of 75 when the leader was already 13 strokes ahead of him after 18 holes, so a far more respectable 69 to follow up offers some encouragement that his game hasn’t fallen off a cliff after the festive break.

2nd at the Joburg Open and 7th at the Mauritius Open capped a successful 2023 for the 5-time European Tour winner which included a first victory for 3 years, this time at Challenge Tour level, and a successful Q-School campaign which gives him the chance to add to his trophy cabinet at DP World Tour level in 2024 before he heads off to the Senior Tour in the not so distant future.

The key this week should Fichardt find himself in contention is likely to be his short game prowess. 36th for Scrambling in the embryonic new season stats, he topped that statistic on his way to that runner-up finish at his home Open in November and was 8th on the same count in Mauritius just before Christmas.

The prospect of a little wind in the forecast won’t bother Darren who’s well-equipped to handle the breeze and experienced enough to hang around if scoring proves to be on the tough side, a point reinforced by his victory at the nearby Qatar Masters back in 2003 where it was blowing 15-20mph throughout. RESULT: T67

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Joshua Grenville-Wood 1pt EW 140/1 (5EW, 1/4) with bet365

Finally I’ll take a punt on Joshua Grenville-Wood who’s quietly racking up some impressive performances in the Middle East, despite being one of the lesser-known players in this field.

Seeing the flag of the UAE next to the 25 year-old’s name may seem a little confusing for the English-born golfer who moved to Atlanta, Georgia where his father was the teaching professional at Whitewater Creek. A move to the UAE as he edged toward his twenties and a subsequent granting of UAE citizenship last year brings us up to date and completes the story. Although judging by some of his recent performances, the story is far from complete.

A stint on the MENA Tour produced best finishes of 2nd here at Royal GC back in 2019 and 2nd again at that year’s Tour Championship on the same circuit, before recording another runner-up finish on the Europro Tour at the Castletown Golf Links. Appearances on the PGTI and Asian Developments Tour followed and once again resulted in top-10 finishes, before he headed to the European Challenge Tour where yet another runner-up finish, this time in Abu Dhabi last April, was the highlight.

All of this history shows progression as a professional, however his UAE status has earned him some starts in his adopted neck of the woods which he’s undoubtedly taken advantage of, finishing 6th at last October’s Qatar Masters and then 9th last week in Ras al Khaimah, an effort which of course get him into this week’s field.

Wedged in between that effort was a 12th place finish at the Asian Tour’s Saudi Open and it’s fair to say that Joshua feels comfortable in this part of the world.

From the little that can be gleaned from his performances stats-wise, Grenville-Wood appears to be a longer hitter who can putt, so he falls firmly into the young, modern golfer mould. 72% Scrambling last week and 11th for SG Around the Green offers just enough encouragement for me to take an each-way chance on him here this week though at the 3-figure price on offer. RESULT: T62

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 15:05GMT 29.1.23 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.