Paul Williams

Paul Williams' Ras al Khaimah Championship Tips

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With the 54-hole favourite on board for the second consecutive week, I was rather hoping for a better outcome on Sunday in Dubai after Shane Lowry’s effort the previous week. We got a little closer with Rory McIlroy, all the way up to his approach shot on the 72nd hole in fact, before he found the water and that was that. Let’s hope for something better this week.

With many of the world’s elite being tempted over to the Asian Tour this week, the remaining events on the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour (Steve previews the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am here) understandably take a drop down in terms of quality this week. Coupled with a 75% cut in terms of prize fund over the events of the past fortnight, the inaugural Ras al Khaimah Championship sees a field headed by 11/1 favourite Bernd Wiesberger rather than the household names of the recent past.

We’ll stay here in Ras al Khaimah next week too following the postponement of the Qatar Masters that was scheduled to take place after this event, so we should expect a very similar field in 7 days time too. Robert MacIntyre, Adrian Meronk, Jordan Smith and Romain Langasque are Wiesberger’s closest challengers according to the bookies in this 132-man affair.

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Before we go into the detail surrounding the Ras al Khaimah Championship, we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System. Welcome 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, +6,000 strong, private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

Course Overview. Al Hamra Golf Club is this week’s venue and the Peter Harradine design stretches to 7,325 yards for its par of 72. Although new to the DP World Tour, Al Hamra hosted 3 events on the Challenge Tour between 2016-18 which form this week’s event stats and combined stats.

A regular 36/36 setup, similar to last week’s Dubai Desert Classic the back 9 is longer than the front 9, although this time around that makes the back 9 a tougher prospect with many of the best scoring opportunities coming in the first 8 holes.

The Par-5s are all long without being excessively so at 576-607 yards; 3 sub-400 yard Par 4s also add to the scoring potential of a course that’s designed for the tourist trade primarily and should allow for birdies and eagles.

Set just off the coast of Ras al Khaimah, there’s definitely a coastal vibe about the track and the exposed fairways and desert surroundings are complimented by water hazards in the shape of lagoons on a number of holes for the errant. Paspalum grass has once again been used for this course, similar to what we saw at Abu Dhabi a fortnight ago.

ras al khaimah championship tips

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

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

Course Winners (Challenge Tour). 2018, Adri Arnaus (-17); 2017, Jens Dantorp (-15); 2016, Jordan Smith (-20).

Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Ras al Khaimah is here.

The tournament should enjoy mild (mid-70s) and dry conditions throughout the 4 days. Similar to Dubai in general, the breeze picks up a little in the afternoons although nothing excessive is expected with Sunday the breeziest day at 15-20mph.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors. With no stats available from the 3 events held here on the Challenge Tour between 2016 to 2018, we’re going to have to rely on specification only this week.

At 7,325 yards and a par 72, par-5 scoring may well be a key factor – indeed Adri Arnaus led the field on that count at -12 in 2018 when Al Hamra was last used on the Challenge Tour. Winning scores of -15 to -20 from the three renewals tells us that this track is scoreable and with little in the way of wind until Sunday, a winning total towards the upper end of those three results feels about right to me.

Incoming Form. The incoming form of the 3 winners here at Al Hamra suggests that some good recent form wouldn’t go amiss, as all three had recorded a top-8 finish in one of their last 3 starts:

  • Arnaus: 18/16/29/MC/13/11/2/30/9/48/4/18
  • Dantorp: 55/MC/34/62/49/22/48/5/15/8/MC/14
  • Smith: 20/15/MC/DQ/21/9/6/4/15/2/MC/MC

Interviews from the Challenge Tour events hinted at the risk-reward nature of this course which is evident from the scorecard. Unless seriously errant, there’s not a massive amount of danger for the players out there so this event may well be won and lost on the Paspalum putting surfaces.

Players who perform well in the vicinity of the coast, as well as in the UAE in general, may be worth a look, however there’s precious little to go on other than that and we’ll undoubtedly know much more this time next week when Al Hamra hosts for a second successive week.

My selections are as follows:

Rasmus Hojgaard 2pts EW 30/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Betfred

Bernd Wiesberger has stuck around for another week of action when many of his peers have flown home or to more lucrative climes, and as a result he rates as the clear favourite this week at 11/1.

12th and 24th from his two Rolex Series outings to start 2022 were solid, with a single destructive round in each which prevented him from a loftier finish on both outings. A stone cold putter last week didn’t help either, ranking 77th for SG Putting of those who made the cut, and with scoring likely to be a little easier this week he’ll need to improve on that if he’s going to justify his short price.

A pair of missed cuts from the same two events for Robert Macintyre hardly gets the pulse racing and the likes of Adrian Meronk,  Jordan Smith and Romain Langasque have each been found out in the market due to their Challenge Tour form here at Al Hamra, combined with some positive efforts of late.

Of those in the top dozen or so in the market, the player who appeals the most and likely has the highest ceiling of them all is Rasmus Hojgaard. Now his twin Nicolai would undoubtedly have a thing or two to say about the statement, however at this point in their respective careers Rasmus leads the silverware count by 3 to 1 and has started 2022 in far more positive fashion, which gets him the nod here.

20th and 47th from his opening two efforts of 2022 isn’t as sparkling as others here, undoubtedly, but golf betting is never as easy as picking the guy with the most obvious incoming form. The 20 year-old’s breakthrough win in Mauritius in 2019 came after similar form reading 13/49 and he’s got the ability to take this event by the scruff of the neck at what is undoubtedly a step down in class versus the past fortnight.

That win in Mauritius shares topography and agronomy with this week’s test in RAK and 6th place finishes in both Oman and Saudi would suggest that Paspalum grass is certainly not a weakness. Last week’s effort in Dubai was blighted by a negative performance on the newly-laid Bermuda TifEagle greens, so a return to Paspalum this week – he ranked 18th for SG Putting the week before on similar surfaces in Abu Dhabi – can only help.

Further successes at The Belfry and in the Swiss Alps suggests that Rasmus is as versatile as he is talented and over the fullness of time I suspect we’ll see many wins on many styles of course, both sides of the Atlantic; for now though, accumulating trophies on these low-key events will have to suffice. RESULT: T42

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Ryan Fox 1pt EW 55/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

I’ve backed Ryan Fox a fair bit in the past year or so and thus far he’s not rewarded my faith, however perhaps a little more patience will pay off this week given that his game seems to be trending at the start of 2022.

The Kiwi’s breakthrough win came at the World Super 6 in 2019 on a Perth track that’s a few miles inland and susceptible to the local trade winds, and he came closest to following that up at the Vic Open nearly exactly 2 years ago at 13th Beach which is, as the name would suggest, a coastal track. Ultimately that’s the point with Ryan – he tends to play his best golf on exposed tracks in the vicinity of the coast.

A couple of low-key local wins when he returned back home last April have to be taken with a pinch of salt given the opposition, however more significant and tangible form last year was evidenced from his 6th place finish at the high-class Saudi International, where he opened with a pair of 65s to lead heading into the weekend before dropping back a little.

That 6th place finish in Saudi completed a 3-event form line of 6/27/6 on that short par 70 which is laid to Paspalum greens. An extra 2 par-5s per round here, assuming no 11th hour changes to the scorecard from the Tour, should help a player who ranked 10th for Par-5 Scoring for the full season in 2021. The drop in class should also help the 35 year-old.

61st in Abu Dhabi shook off a little rust and he was much improved last week in Dubai, finishing 26th overall with all long game pointers looking good from a Strokes Gained perspective. Ryan also has a 16th place finish to his name here at Al Hamra from his 2016 Challenge Tour campaign and he could make good use of that experience here this week. RESULT: MC

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Kalle Samooja 1pt EW 55/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Betfred

Of the DP World Tour maidens in attendance this week, Kalle Samooja makes the most appeal at a backable each-way price.

3 attempts at Al Hamra on the Challenge Tour produced finishes of 24th, 33rd and 32nd which in itself isn’t overly impressive; however the Finn has undoubtedly stepped up his game since that last effort in 2018 and has been knocking on the door of a breakthrough at the top level since that time.

6th at the Kenya Open in 2019, a play-off defeat at Crans later that year, 3rd in Qatar at the start of 2020, 9th at the Scottish Open and 2nd at the Cyprus Open in the same year, then 5 top-10 finishes in 2021 all point to a player on the cusp of stepping up and becoming a winner at this level. 4th (Dubai Desert Classic) and 8th (Dubai Championship) came a short way down the coast here and 3rd (Tenerife Open) and 9th (Canary Islands Championship) came on scoreable, coastal tests that should set him in good stead for this week.

7th and 10th for SG Putting on his two attempts at the Paspalum greens of Education City in Qatar would suggest a liking for these types of greens and 12th at last week’s Dubai Desert Classic is another piece of positive Middle East form at a higher level than this week’s task. 68 to open and 69 on Saturday were both top-10 efforts on the day at the Emirates and he can keep that momentum going this week on a course that’s more familiar to him than most of the rest of this field. RESULT: MC

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Jeff Winther 1pt EW 80/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Betfred

Costal golf appears to be Jeff Winther’s strongest suit and Al Hamra’s vistas of the Persian Gulf should appeal to the giant Dane.

3rd at last year’s Gran Canaria Lopesan Open alerted a few eagle-eyed punters to Winther’s prowess with the sea in close proximity, and he backed that up in October when securing his breakthrough win at DP World Tour level at the Mallorca Golf Open. Strong approach play and strong putting was the key to both efforts with the former coming on Paspalum greens, and a repeat performance here this week would see him go very close to victory I suspect.

Developing the Paspalum angle a little further gives us more reason to suspect he’ll go well here at Al Hamra. 12th at the Oman in Open in 2019 saw Jeff rank 5th for putting on those similar putting surfaces, and 3rd at the Qatar Masters the following year was also fuelled by 3rd for SG Putting on the Paspalum Greens. Gran Canaria I’ve already mentioned (9th for SG Putting) and then there’s his 6th place finish a fortnight ago at Rolex Series level at Yas Links. Again, Paspalum was used from tee to green.

A missed cut last week has kept a lid on the 33 year-old’s price in this weaker affair, however Winther is also one of those in attendance with some positive experience of this track. 12th here at the 2017 Ras al Khaimah Golf Challenge, Jeff was 4th heading into the weekend before treading water over the final 2 days. Far more accomplished these days, I can see him going well this week on a course that suits. RESULT: T57

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George Coetzee 1pt EW 100/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Betfred

At a deeper price I’m taking a chance on a player who’s proven to be my Nemesis in the past, George Coetzee.

Backing the South African at short(ish) odds isn’t something I’m likely to get involved in any time soon, however with 3-figures available with a number of firms at the time of writing, the upside is high enough this week in view to add him to the team.

Of course, from the way I’m talking you’d expect his CV to be littered with near misses and little else, and that’s not strictly true. 12 Sunshine Tour wins, 4 of which were co-sanctioned with the European Tour at the time, plus a further success – and his most recent – at the 2020 Portugal Masters isn’t too shabby in the bigger scheme of things.

Of the wins not in his homeland, both that success at Vilamoura and his 2015 Mauritius Open victory hold relevance to this week’s test. Both exposed tracks with a coastal vibe, the grasses in Mauritius are a closer match to this week but I’m happy to take both as positive pointers for Al Hamra. Mid-teens under par seems to be a fair target for this week too given the events held here in the past and with all 5 career wins at this kind of level coming at between 13- and 19-under par, this week’s test should be right up George’s alley.

47th last week in Dubai was a vast improvement on his 2022 opening effort in Abu Dhabi the week before, and a better Sunday last week could have seen the 35 year-old pushing a top-10 finish having sat in 23rd place heading into the final day. The putter just about held things together last week and with Paspalum greens promising something a little more forgiving with approach shots this week, any improvement in greens found in regulation this week should provide an improvement in his overall position and potentially see him challenging the each-way positions. RESULT: T27

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 17:10GMT 31.1.22 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.