Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Hero Indian Open Tips 2019

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With many of the European Tour’s rank and file preparing to take an enforced break for the next few weeks – the Trophee Hassan II which starts on April 25th is the next regular season event – this is the last chance for many to grab a paycheque before they put their feet up and watch the world’s elite battle it out first at the WGC Match Play and then at The Masters over the next few weeks. After last week’s Sunday capitulation from 50/1 selection David Lipsky, who led briefly on Saturday and went out in the final group on Sunday only to record the only over-par round of anyone in the top-40, I’m hoping for something a little better at the business end of things this week.

Not that many of the Tour’s higher-ranked players have made the trip out to India for this co-sanctioned event though with Jorge Campillo rating as the bookies favourite at around the 14/1 mark. A strong home contingent headed by Anirban Lahiri will line up at Gary Player’s tough track here in Delhi, however Matt Wallace’s win here 12 months ago suggests that the locals won’t necessarily have it all their own way.

DLF G&CC. Designer: Gary Player, 2015; Course Type: Technical; Par: 72; Length: 7,379 yards; Water Hazards: 6 in play; Fairways: Celebration Bermuda; Rough: Celebration Bermuda; Greens: Bermuda Mini Verde.

Course Overview. After a couple of years at the tight, tree-lined sub-7,000 yard Delhi Golf Club, this event moved to Gary Player’s new course in 2017 as the track made its bow on the European Tour, so when studying event form please bear that in mind. In stark contrast to the previous venue, Player has carved a brute out of the Aravalli Hills which stretches to 7,657 yards in length from the Gold tees, however, as per last year, the professionals will be playing from some of the forward tees this week, meaning that the parkland-style track will play as a 7,379 yard, Par 72 with the potential for different tees to be used as the tournament progresses.

Built to the latest golf design standards including a full sub-air system, the layout features severe elevation changes, eye-catching bunkering and large, undulating greens. Fairways are fairly narrow and water features heavily on 6 holes including the par-3 5th which is to an island green as the front 9 (the ‘Lake 9’) meanders around the 2 lakes that the course flanks. The back 9 (the ‘Quarry 9’) is the longest of the two and contains the holes with the most elevation change. Bermudagrass has been used throughout the construction with Mini Verde the strain of choice on the greens.

Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s Indian Open that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well at this event, going back to 2007. Please note, only the 2017 and 2018 events were played on this particular track here in Delhi: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader Stats | Top 20 Finishes | Combined Form Stats.

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

Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Delhi is here. The tournament should enjoy sunny conditions with hot temperatures (high 90s Fahrenheit) and light to moderate winds expected, strengthening slightly around teatime each day although nothing excessive is forecast.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors.

Stats from the top-3 finishers from the past 2 renewals gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:

  • 2018: 1st, Matt Wallace (-11) .  294 yards (18th), 82.1% fairways (9th), 66.7% greens in regulation (31st), 58.3% scrambling (5th), 1.58 putts per GIR (3rd)
  • 2018: 2nd, Andew Johnston (-11).  296 yards (16th), 75% fairways (23rd), 77.8% greens in regulation (3rd), 62.5% scrambling (1st), 1.70 putts per GIR (30th)
  • 2018: 3rd, Sihwan Kim (-8)  290 yards (24th), 82.1% fairways (9th), 75% greens in regulation (4th), 61.1% scrambling (2nd), 1.70 putts per GIR (33rd)
  • 2017: 1st, SSP Chawrasia (-10).  266 yards (67th), 76.8% fairways (12th), 66.7% greens in regulation (31st), 75% scrambling (1st), 1.71 putts per GIR (7th)
  • 2017: 2nd, Gavin Green (-3).  278 yards (60th), 71.4% fairways (28th), 66.7% greens in regulation (31st), 29.2% scrambling (45th), 1.58 putts per GIR (1st)
  • 2017: 3rd, Scott Jamieson (-2).  300 yards (16th), 78.6% fairways (7th), 75% greens in regulation (3rd), 22.2% scrambling (55th), 1.69 putts per GIR (5th)
  • 2017: 3rd, Matteo Manassero (-2).  279 yards (58th), 76.8% fairways (12th), 72.2% greens in regulation (10th), 50% scrambling (7th), 1.85 putts per GIR (43rd)

With just 8 players finishing under par in 2017 and 15 players beating that mark last year, and with double-bogeys a very regular occurrence on even the better players’ scorecards, this event is a true test of patience and concentration with danger lurking on virtually every shot. The greens are huge, particularly on the back-9, and players who are missing the putting surfaces in regulation need to have a razor-sharp short game to save from dropping shots. The greens themselves are excellent quality, however it’s critical to find the right portion of putting surfaces given the undulations, so quality lag putting is also an important strength to possess. 

Incoming Form. It’s fair to say that the incoming form of both of our winners was subtle at best. Matt Wallace had recorded his best finish of the season on his previous start in Qatar when finishing 19th a fortnight before winning here; likewise Chawrasia had also recorded his best result of the season on his last start, 35th at the World Super 6 in Perth:

  • 2018: 1st, Matt Wallace: 59/4/18/54/34/30/38/32/37/MC/44/19
  • 2018: 2nd, Andew Johnston: 19/27/WD/MC/23/30/MC/9/45/27/MC/12
  • 2018: 3rd, Sihwan Kim: MC/25/MC/MC/MC/18/29/6/MC/21/62/MC
  • 2017: 1st, SSP Chawrasia: MC/MC/34/71/47/1/MC/70/MC/MC/MC/35
  • 2017: 2nd, Gavin Green: 47/6/6/MC/69/9/14/63/59/68/32/47
  • 2017: 3rd, Scott Jamieson: 10/7/MC/63/28/50/4/36/MC/60/83/22
  • 2017: 3rd, Matteo Manassero: 45/MC/MC/MC/49/MC/17/55/39/MC/54/20

Event History. Each of the top-3 finishers last year were making their Indian Open debut. Despite a change of course, SSP Chawrasia continued a fine run of form at the Indian Open when he defended in 2017 – 4 runner-up finishes dating back to 1999 and a further 2 top-10s to go alongside his two trophies speaks for itself. The remainder of the top-3 finishers that year were relatively inexperienced at the Indian Open:

  • 2018: 1st, Matt Wallace: Debut
  • 2018: 2nd, Andew Johnston: Debut
  • 2018: 3rd, Sihwan Kim: Debut
  • 2017: 1st, SSP Chawrasia: 2/MC/MC/23/2/9/MC/36/7/40/2/2/1
  • 2017: 2nd, Gavin Green: Debut
  • 2017: 3rd, Scott Jamieson: 43
  • 2017:3rd, Matteo Manassero: Debut

The key aspect to focus on this week in my view is the difficulty of the course and the fact that players need to be 100% focussed and prepared for this tough test from the outset. Some players relish a grind, whereas others don’t have the mental approach to shrug off the inevitable bogeys or worse and they can quickly spiral downwards once the first few mistakes are made. For me, focussing on those players who have proven in the past that they can grind out a score on some of golf’s tougher tests is no bad attribute, however equally those players who are comfortable with the surroundings and the hit conditions may also be at an advantage.

My selections are as follows:

Mikko Korhonen 2pts EW 55/1 (5EW, 1/4) with bet365

The top of the market holds limited appeal to me this week it has to be said. Jorge Campillo has certainly been knocking on the door for a while now, however at 14/1 he’s prohibitively short to take a chance that this will be the week, particularly having missed the cut here courtesy of a 2nd round 80 on his only start. New father Anirban Lahiri’s season’s best effort of 30th on the PGA Tour last week at the Valspar doesn’t excite massively given the additional travel he’s had to endure to get here this week, although his record in this event is outstanding. Jazz Janewattananond’s price has had a knife taken to it courtesy of last week’s 3rd place finish and second-guessing what kind of mood Victor Dubuisson will be in this week is anyone’s guess. Given that we’ve had winning prices of 66/1 for Wallace and 80/1 for Chawrasia since the Indian Open moved to this testing track in Delhi, I’m happy to start my team in a similar ball-park with Mikko Korhonen.

We were on board last year when the flying Finn captured his first European Tour event at the Shot Clock Masters and I see some parallels with the task at hand this week. Both tracks demand either a high GIR game or sparkling short performance and if Mikko is going to compete here this week then, in all likelihood, it will be via the former approach, as we saw first hand when converting his opportunity in Austria last year. We’ve seen sufficient evidence of late that his irons are in decent shape – he led the field for GIR on his penultimate start in Qatar with a massive 87.5% – and if he’s going to survive the perils of DLF G&CC this week then more of the same will set him in good stead. A missed cut last week in Malaysia has given him more time to prepare for this week and seeing as he won off the back of a missed cut last year, perhaps that could act as a motivator to get himself fully prepared for this week’s task at hand.

Although the 38 year-old hasn’t played the Indian Open since it moved here 2 years ago, he does have some practical experience in the region with 24th and 43rd in this event on the previous track and this layout plays more to his strengths in my view than Delhi Golf Club. 2nd behind last year’s winner Matt Wallace at the BMW International Open following his win last year adds encouragement, as does 3rd at the exacting test that is Valderrama in the autumn, which has been won by last year’s play-off loser Beef Johnston in the recent past. Mikko’s best putting performance of 2019 came on the Bermuda surfaces in Dubai in January and if he can get his high GIR game going this week and hole a few putts, then he could well go close here this week. RESULT T10

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Paul Peterson 1.5pts EW 66/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

By defeating heavy favourite Thomas Pieters at the 2016 Czech Masters, Paul Peterson announced himself as a very capable player who few had taken much notice of up to that point in time. Plying his trade mainly on the Asian Tour up until that point, the American had shown some good form from tee-to-green at the Queen’s Cup and Yeangder Tournament before following that promise up with the biggest victory of his career on a track of comparable length to this in Prague.

After a largely unsuccessful year on the European Tour in 2017, a return to the Asian Tour proved pivotal as he once again found his long game to rack up a sequence of 6 top-8 finishes in the space of 8 events before adding the Myanmar Open title to his CV at the start of 2018. Another mini-slump followed, however I wonder if the sparks of life that we’ve seen over his past 2 starts – 13th at the New Zealand Open where he ranked 6th for Total Driving and 30th last week in Kuala Lumpur where he sat in 4th place going into the weekend – suggest that another big week isn’t far away.

The 30 year-old has played this course both times that it’s been used for this event over the past two seasons and both times he’s shown some promise – he was 6th heading into the weekend here in 2017 and 9th going into Sunday 12 months ago – and although both times he’s been derailed when push came to shove, he’s nevertheless proven with those two wins that Sundays can still go his way from time to time. 2nd at the Panasonic Open in November 2017 is further evidence that he’s comfortable in this part of the world and with his European Tour exemption a thing of the past, this is a decent opportunity to get back on the European Tour full time. RESULT MC

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Rashid Khan 1pt EW 125/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

This is Indian Golf’s biggest event in terms of stature and prize money and to the local players this is essentially their 5th Major. High profile locals including Anirban Lahiri, Shubhankar Sharma, Gaganjeet Bhullar and SSP Chawrasia will grab the bulk of the attention this week given that they have far more prominence with Lahiri plying his trade on the PGA Tour first and foremost, Sharma being attached to the club, Bhullar having finished 5th on the European Tour the week before last and Chawrasia having won here 2 years ago, however one of the lesser-known Indians represents better value in my view and that’s Rashid Khan.

At the ago of 28, Khan has already experienced a rapid rise through the ranks (in relative terms) in his career, driven by 4 PGTI wins and 2 Asian Tour wins before the age of 24, however it’s certainly not been plain sailing since. Aside from a low-key PGTI success in 2016, his form has been patchy at best since those heady days of 2014 and he was rapidly edging towards dropping out of the OWGR top 1,000 until he started building his confidence back up by dropping back to the PGTI in 2019. That move saw instant success with 8th at the Golconda Masters followed by victory at the Chittagong Open a month later and then, most recently, 3rd at the Bengal Open the week before last as he fired his 4th round of 65 or better in the space of 2 weeks.

Of course this is a step up in class and his home Open to boot, however finishes of 4th and 6th in this event in 2013 and 2016 respectively before it moved to DLF G&CC suggests that he’s not overawed on this kind of stage. 2 poor efforts here over the past 2 seasons have to be taken into context as his game wasn’t anywhere near its best and with confidence restored I suspect he can put his short game skills to good use on this tricky layout. RESULT T10

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Karandeep Kochhar 0.5pt EW 300/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

One of the more unexposed locals this week is 19 year-old Karandeep Kochhar and the young talent is worth a small investment at a big price here this week. The Chandigarh lad, who plies his trade from his home a couple of hundred miles north of New Delhi, has impressed on his 12 starts where OWGR points have been up for grabs, finishing 16th or better on half of those events and recording in that time a best of effort of 2nd at the Panasonic Open behind Shiv Kapur and finishing alongside former DLF G&CC winner SSP Chawrasia amongst others. 4th at the aforementioned Golconda Masters and 3rd at the Bengal Open also impresses, as does a play-off defeat to Chikkarangappa at the Jeev Milka Singh Invitational before Christmas. Having won the PGTI as an amateur in 2016, it’s clear that Kochhar has a huge career ahead of him, driven by an accurate tee-to-green game that could help him stay out of the worst of the trouble here and with a massive incentive to leapfrog the lower Tours and grab himself a European Tour card, I wouldn’t be surprised to see outperform the bookies’ expectations here this week. RESULT MC

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 17:30GMT 25.3.19 but naturally subject to fluctuation.