Thailand Golf guide
A preview for this week's Thailand Golf Championship at Amata Spring Country Club in Chonburi
By Dave Tindall Twitter: @DaveTindallgolf. Last Updated: 10/12/13 11:27am
The 18th hole at Amata Spring Country Club
If you think the big guns have packed their clubs away for Christmas after a long, hard, year then check the field at this week's Thailand Golf Championship.
Asia's flagship tournament is absolutely littered with world-class performers as they chase a total prize fund of $1m at Amata Spring Country Club in Chonburi.
Political upheaval in Thailand caused a recent motorsport event in Bangkok to be called off but with Chonburi 75km east of the capital the tournament is expected to go ahead as scheduled.
Sky Sports (SS4 HD) have live coverage of all four days.
Here's the rundown on the leading contenders and their Sky Bet odds:
Henrik Stenson (9/2): As he continues to scoop award after award for his 2013 performances, there was almost a sense of disappointment at the Swede's fourth place in last week's Nedbank. However, rounds of 69-67-69-67 mean Stenson has now shot 14 straight rounds in the 60s! Does he have one last big performance in him? He admits he's "running on fumes" but he has played the course a couple of times despite this being his debut in this event.
Charl Schwartzel (9/2): The South African absolutely blitzed the field in this event last year, shooting three 65s and a 68 to win by 11. Previously he'd finished runner-up to Lee Westwood so his record at Amata Spring is wonderful. He's certainly match fit for another assault at the title having finished fourth (South African Open), first (Alfred Dunhill) and sixth (Nedbank) in three recent home-soil starts.
Justin Rose (13/2): Rose reeled off his fifth straight top 10 at last week's Nedbank and even though seventh in a field of 30 isn't earth-shattering he played well for the final 54 holes (67-69-67) and was ranked second in greens in regulation for the week. He's won in Japan, Australia and Turkey during his career but has yet to bag a victory on the Asian Tour so there is new ground waiting to be broken for the Englishman this week.
Sergio Garcia (7/1): Sergio was a fast-finishing (66-65 on the weekend) runner-up in the Nedbank Golf Challenge last week and prior to that was fourth in the HSBC Champions in China so he's found some hot late-season form. He's also a three-time Asian Tour winner, the most recent coming in last December's Iskandar Johor Open when he shot a closing 61 to win by three. The Spaniard can boast good course form too having finished fourth last year.
Bubba Watson (12/1): Bubba remains winless since his emotional Masters victory at Augusta in April 2012 but a second place (albeit a distant one) in this event last year suggests he could end the drought this week. The big-hitting left-hander was eighth in the HSBC Champions on his most recent visit to Asia last month while he also finished an encouraging tied third in last week's Northwestern Mutual World Challenge in California. "I played well last year, and the course at Amata Spring suits me really well," says Watson.
Rickie Fowler (18/1): The young American loves to travel and often plays well overseas. "I feel like I have a bit of connection to the Asian countries, being a quarter Japanese," he said in his press conference. This is his first outing since a second place in the Australian PGA Championship (where he topped the putting stats) although it will be his tournament debut. "This past year was a little slow for me. I would have liked to have been in contention a little bit more," said Fowler last week so he'll be keen to build on that runners-up finish in Australia.
Others with course experience:
American Michael Thompson finished third here in 2011 while fellow US raider Hunter Mahan was a modest 22nd last year. Prom Meesawat, who lost a play-off to Miguel Angel Jimenez in Hong Kong last week, was sixth last year and 11th in 2011. Meesawat and Charl Schwartzel are the only two players who have finished in the top 20 in both runnings of this event.
As Henrik Stenson says, many players are "running on fumes" at this time of year although some may have developed a little rust after downing tools .
So it makes sense to look to those somewhere in the middle, players with the benefit of a recent outing who aren't too mentally jaded.
Add in the fact that this course suits big hitters and the two I like this week are Sergio Garcia and Bubba Watson.
Sergio Garcia: Can take victory
Since the Tour Championship in late September, Garcia has played just one tournament in each of October, November and December and he's performed impressively (11th, 4th and 2nd).
He did everything well at last week's Nedbank (2nd in Driving Distance, 1st in Driving Accuracy, 8th in Greens In Reg and 3rd in Putting Average) so he looks in prime shape to improve on last year's fourth place here.
Bubba has also played just three times in the last three months but last week's third at the Word Challenge has to bode well.
A runner-up here 12 months ago, he said earlier this week: "Charl was phenomenal last year. He was on a roll and it was hard to stay with him but I feel this is a tournament I can win.
"I feel I've been hitting the ball great all year, but I haven't been able to get it over the line. I would love to end my season with a big win in Thailand."
4pts win Sergio Garcia at 7/1
3pts e.w. Bubba Watson at 12/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)