Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Oman Open Tips 2020

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After a short break for the WGC Mexico Championship, where Patrick Reed rewarded us with a tasty 50/1 winner, the European Tour’s back in the Middle East for another 2 week stretch of golf as we take in a couple of fairly small events in the shape of the Oman Open and Qatar Masters in a week’s time.

With a prize fund of $1.75m, which puts it on a par with next week’s more established event, a reasonable field has assembled here in the capital Muscat which sits around 250 miles to the south-east of Dubai, headlined by Thomas Pieters who rates the 12/1 favourite in what looks to be a wide open affair.

In terms of tangible course form to study for this week, there’s the past 2 renewals of the Oman Open to peruse, plus we have a little more help as the European Challenge Tour has used this Al Mouj Golf Course in the past, firstly for the NBO Golf Classic in 2013 and 2014, then latterly for the season-ending NBO Golf Classic Grand Final. Although understandably limited, we have used this data for this week’s course stats to give you an idea of the players who have experienced the track before.

Before we talk through my Oman Open tips, the number of new visitors to Golf Betting System is increasing in the inevitable build-up to The Masters. Welcome to you all and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published Tuesday) the Golf Betting Show on YouTube and our hugely popular private group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

2020 Majors Competition Sponsored By bet365:

Following on from the success of the last 8 annual GBS Majors competitions, bet365 have kindly offered to sponsor the 2020 edition with a massive £250 CASH prize fund! Our 2020 winner will receive £150 (or currency equivalent) in cash with additional £75 and £25 prizes for 2nd and 3rd place finishers.

Basically we want you to pick a single player for each of the 4 Majors any time before the start of the 2020 Masters and get those 4 names entered into the competition by one of the methods detailed on our rules page here. Best of luck all!

Oman Open Tips – Featured Bookmaker:

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Al Mouj Golf, Muscat, Oman. Designer: Greg Norman, 2012; Course Type: Links style, coastal; Par: 72; Length: 7,365 yards; Water Hazards: 10; Fairways: Paspalum SeaDwarf; Rough: Paspalum SeaDwarf; Greens: Paspalum SeaDwarf, 10′ Stimpmeter.

Course Overview. This week’s host course, Al Mouj Golf, is a seaside course designed by Greg Norman. Built on the beach at Muscat flanking the Gulf of Oman before it flows into the Arabian Sea, the course is fairly links-like in style with exposed, wide fairways littered with bunkers and waste areas.

Some of the holes run beside the sea itself and in total 10 of the holes feature water hazards of some description, however the difficulty of the track is dictated almost entirely by the strength of the breeze with winning scores ranging from -7 to -21 on the Challenge Tour events that have been played here over recent years. Joost Luiten won the inaugural Oman Open at 16-under par in 2018 before Kurt Kitayama claimed his second European Tour title at 7-under par 12 months ago, to further emphasise the point about conditions dictating the winning score here.

The 7,365 yard layout is a conventional pair of 9s with two par-5s on both sides measuring 566, 598, 543 and 590 yards for the 3rd, 7th, 12th and 16th respectively, with the 12th playing at the easiest hole on the course. The short par-4 2nd (377 yards) is a good birdie chance after a tough opening hole, and in general the front 9 players easier than the back 9. The closing 4 holes are tough with the 503 yard par-4 15th likely to dispute the most difficult hole on the course status with the 9th and the par-5 16th is a 3-shotter for most of the field, before a pair of challenging par-4s see the players home.

oman open tips

Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s event that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well on this course: Current Form | Course Form | First Round Leader Stats | Combined Stats.

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

Course Winners. 2019, Kurt Kitayama (281, -7); 2018, Joost Luiten (272, -16); 2017, Clement Sordet (273, -15); 2016, Bernd Ritthammer (267, -21); 2015 Ricardo Gouveia (275, -13); 2014, Max Orrin (281, -7); 2013, Roope Kakko (274, -14).

Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Muscat is here. Dry, sunny conditions are expected with temperatures reaching the high 70s Fahrenheit each afternoon, accompanied by a moderate breeze of between 10-15mph.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors.

Stats from the winners from last 2 years gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:

  • 2019: Kurt Kitayama. 328 yards (1st), 58.9% fairways (63rd), 70.9% greens in regulation (16th), 61.9% scrambling (15th), 1.71 putts per GIR (4th)
  • 2018: Joost Luiten. 297 yards (30th), 82.1% fairways (8th), 73.6% greens in regulation (30th), 36.8% scrambling (40th), 1.64 putts per GIR (1st)

Fairways are wide here and even the more wayward players were still hitting the short grass on well over half of the holes in both years. There wasn’t a massive amount of variation with the GIR stats in either years which put the emphasis ultimately onto putting performance, however Joost Luiten isn’t generally one you’d consider as an upper-echelon player with the flat stick, although on the week he topped the putting charts. Kitayama is generally a better putter than Luiten statistically, however both did enough to win their respective events on the greens.

Luiten was the only player to break 20 birdies on the week in 2018 which is fairly unusual and an approach that minimises bogeys was the preferred option that year; similarly only one player broke 20 birdies last year also, however Kitayama’s 2 eagles and 17 birdies proved decisive in the end.

Incoming Form: Last year’s winner Kurt Kitayama had started the year very slowly and arrived here off the back of 3 straight missed cuts meaning his price had drifted out to 200/1 in places, despite having won the Mauritius Open in similar conditions before Christmas.

In the 2018 Oman Open, eventual winner Joost Luiten arrived off the back of his best finish of the season on his previous start when he’d finished 11th in Malaysia; prior to that he’d pushed Sergio all the way at Valderrama at the back end of the previous year.

Before that, since the Al Mouj course has hosted the season-ending Challenge Tour Grand Final, each of the three winners had a relatively recent win under their belts plus a seriously contending performance in one of their last two events. Prior to that both Max Orrin and Roope Kakko came into their respective winning weeks off of the back of a top-20 finish:

  • 2019: Kurt Kitayama: 19/4/13/45/1/15/MC/67/71/MC/MC/MC
  • 2018: Joost Luiten: 30/MC/12/36/32/2/16/12/44/48/MC/11
  • 2017: Clement Sordet: MC/9/66/34/1/29/26/56/18/15/17/3
  • 2016: Bernd Ritthammer: MC/2/36/13/19/53/1/63/42/MC/6/32
  • 2015: Ricardo Gouviea: 35/20/1/2/25/3/2/MC/21/6/31/3
  • 2014: Max Orrin: 50/12/57/28/MC/7/19/9/MC/MC/34/19
  • 2013: Roope Kakko: 30/30/34/7/8/11/30/39/17/MC/7/12

Course Form: Of course we’re going to need to take the course form stats of our seven winners with a pinch of salt this week as the regular European Tour players in the field won’t have had the same chance to play the track here in Muscat prior to the last 2 renewals:

  • 2019: Kurt Kitayama: Debut
  • 2018: Joost Luiten: Debut
  • 2017: Clement Sordet: 34/22
  • 2016: Bernd Ritthammer: 48/12
  • 2015: Ricardo Gouviea: 9
  • 2014: Max Orrin: Debut
  • 2013: Roope Kakko: Debut

Some interesting pointers came out of the 2018 event. Firstly, of the top-12 ranked players in the field, 6 of them finished inside the top-8 overall on the week in the shape of Levy, Han, Luiten (eventual winner), Zanotti, Wood and Campillo. Only Julien Geurrier and Robert Rock were further down the OWGR list at 207th and 242nd respectively. Of the same 8 players, Levy had previously won on Paspalum greens (2014 China Open) and Luiten, Zanotti and Campillo had all recorded top-5 finishes on the same putting surface over the years which is seldom used on the European Tour.

Last year’s renewal wasn’t quite so clear-cut though in tougher conditions, with eventual winner Kurt Kitayama ranking 40th in the field for OWGR before lifting the trophy, with Jorge Campillo the highest ranked player of those who finished runner-up at 13th in the field. With his aforementioned victory in Mauritius though, Kitayama had shown some heavy hints in similar turf and coastal conditions if you were brave enough to overlook his more recent form.

As well as Kitayama, 2018 high-performers Wood, Levy and Luiten in particular all had good coastal records and in terms of links (or links style) performances, Chris Wood has 2 top-5 Open Championship efforts to his name and Luiten has a KLM Open victory at the Dutch, an inland links, on his CV plus a couple more top-5 finishes on similar tracks over the years.

Irish Open form also seems to translate well with Wood having record 3 top-10 finishes in that event over the years as has Rock, whereas Luiten has 2, Kieffer has 2 and Zanotti 1 – again this correlates well with coastal/links performances in the main.

My Final Oman Open Tips Are As Follows:

Benjamin Hebert 2pts EW 45/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

Sometimes you can look at a golf betting market and be utterly disgusted by the prices on offer; other times you can be positively enthused and this week falls into the latter category for me.

Thomas Pieters is a class act and will undoubtedly have his supporters this week, however we’ve seen him fail to push on from some very promising positions since his Czech Masters win back in August and patience must be starting to run thin for those who continue to back him at relatively short prices.

Martin Kaymer has been hinting at a return to winning ways of late, however it’s coming up to 6 years now since he last converted an opportunity and again I can leave him alone at the price on offer; likewise Joost Luiten’s normally dependable tee-to-green game is nowhere near the level that would tempt me to make an investment, so he’s off the list too.

Similar comments about lack of conversion could be made for Gavin Green and of course Thomas Detry, so if I’m going to take a chance on a perennial bridesmaid then I want a little more return for my money and that’s what’s on offer for Benjamin Hebert.

Perhaps I’m being a little harsh on the 33 year-old who has 6 Challenge Tour titles to his name, achieved in two purple patches of 3 wins apiece in both 2011 and 2014, however it’s clearly success at the upper level that he craves and perhaps this is the week when it will finally happen.

2019 saw the Frenchman break into the world’s top-100 for the first time courtesy of three agonising play-off defeats in China, Scotland and Turkey, however that win still didn’t arrive despite his best efforts so the search goes on.

In terms of linksy, coastal form that may be relevant to this week’s task, that Scottish Open effort where he closed with a sublime round of 62 only to blow a huge chance in the play-off and eventually let Bernd Wiesberger take the title is the most tangible. The Turkish Airlines Open result, which saw 6 players head into extra time, also holds some credence for this week given that last year’s winner Kurt Kitayama was also part of the play-off which Tyrrell Hatton eventually won. Both of those results were in far loftier company than this and you’d like to think that eventually his class in those situations will see him over the line.

2020 has started in progressive fashion for Benjamin with finishes of MC/45/27, before recording his first top-20 at WGC level last week in Mexico courtesy of 20 birdies and an eagle in elite company at Chapultepec. That 18th place finish is the best effort of those who’ve ventured over to Oman and given that his aforementioned runner-up finish in Turkey last year came directly after the last WGC event, I suspect he’ll have no problem getting himself ready for this week’s task.

9th and 18th here in Muscat from his 2 efforts on this track over the past 2 seasons, if he can keep the putter going as we saw on the Paspalum greens of Saudi Arabia on his penultimate start where he ranked 11th for Putting Average and 5th for Total Putts, then he could well make his breakthrough here this week. RESULT: T43

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Ashun Wu 1pt EW 80/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

I noted in a recent podcast that Ashun Wu was showing some sneaky form and was worth considering over these forthcoming weeks and, despite some indifferent form here from his two attempts at Al Mouj, I’ll take a chance on him turning that form around given what we’ve seen of late.

Aside from a missed cut in Abu Dhabi, the 34 year-old’s last 5 starts have produced a 9th place finish at the China Tour Championship, 13th at the coastal Mauritius Open, 6th at the Dubai Desert Classic where he led the field for scrambling, and 13th at the Saudi International where he ranked 5th for both Putting Average and Total Putts on the Pasapalum greens.

Those most recent efforts in the Middle East give the most encouragement that the Chinese star can overcome course form of MC/67 given that they were events in far loftier company – indeed his 6th at the Emirates saw him finish alongside last year’s winner here Kurt Kitayama and ahead of the likes of Bryson DeChambeau, Tommy Fleetwood and Shane Lowry.

For correlating course form we can look firmly at his KLM Open victory in 2018 held at The Dutch, which plays very much like an inland links track. Joost Luiten won there in 2016 and of course he lifted the inaugural Oman Open trophy 2 years ago, so perhaps history will repeat itself here this Sunday when Wu converts what would be his 4th European Tour title. RESULT: MC

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Brandon Stone 1pt EW 80/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Coral

I’m seemingly making a habit of backing Brandon Stone on his off weeks having supported him at this year’s SA Open and Dubai Desert Classic where he’s missed the cut both times, however I’m convinced that his new strength and conditioning regime and return to his natural shot shape will reap rewards sooner rather than later.

In between those aforementioned missed cuts, plus further weekends off in Saudi and at the Dimension Data Pro-Am on the Sunshine Tour, there’s been plenty to encourage in the South African’s game. 21st in Abu Dhabi saw the 26 year-old rank 4th for Total Driving and 3rd for Ball-Striking; 19th at the Cape Town Open was better still with 3rd for Total Driving and 1st for Ball-Striking. Last week’s 10th place finish at the South African Tour Championship featured much the same from a long game perspective, however crucially he found some form with the putter and led the field for Total Putts whilst ranking 2nd for Putts per GIR as he looks to rekindle the kind of form that saw him win the Scottish Open in 2018 at Gullane courtesy of a sparkling final round of 60.

10th behind 2018 Oman Open winner Joost Luiten at the 2016 KLM Open is interesting correlating course form, as is 6th at the 2016 Mauritius Open which subsequently produced last year’s winner Kurt Kitayama. 13th at last year’s event in Mauritius is also encouraging given the similarities in topography and agronomy and when on his game he’s more than a match for his qualify of field.

4th and 6th here at Al Mouj back in the 2013 and 2015 Challenge Tour events offers further evidence that he could go well this week, and 31st last year following a poor spell of form is also positive given that he sat in 3rd position heading into the weekend before a poor Saturday took him out of contention. RESULT: 2nd, Lost Playoff

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Robin Sciot-Siegrist 1pt EW 125/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

Finally I’m taking a chance on promising Frenchman Robin Sciot-Siegrist who’s enjoyed the first few events of his rookie European Tour campaign and could reward each-way backers at a healthy 3-figure price.

The 27 year-old earned his place on the top tier via Q-School having agonisingly missed out automatically by 1 place in the season-long Challenge Tour rankings despite finishing 2nd in November’s Grand Final, and he’s seemingly taken that form with him into his starts this season, recording an 8th place finish in Mauritius courtesy of a pair of weekend 65s before finishing 3rd at the Vic Open on his last start.

Scot-Siegrist, who’s half-Irish on his mother’s side, has already tasted success as a professional back in 2017 on the Challenge Tour’s Northern Ireland Open and with his potent combination of long, accurate driving and excellent putting it may be simply a matter of time before he breaks through at the upper level.

From those two impressive efforts this season he’s ranked 6th and 2nd for Driving Accuracy, 4th and 9th for Scrambling, 1st and 3rd for Putting Average and 1st both times for Total Putts. All that’s missing has been the kind of GIR performance that would fully reward those other statistics,

Rasmus Hojgaard has already proven that Q-School graduates are more than capable of hitting the ground running at European Tour level – perhaps Robin will be the next player to add himself to that growing list of players who’ve quickly made the step up to European Tour winner and 20th here at Al Mouj from his only start back in 2017 offers a strong platform for improvement. RESULT: T67

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 17:50GMT 24.2.20 but naturally subject to fluctuation.