Volvo China Open: A preview and best bets for this week's European Tour event
By Dave Tindall. Last Updated: 27/04/14 4:25pm
Nicolas Colsaerts: Great record in this event
After two years at Binhai Lake Golf Club, this year's China Open heads to a new course, Genzon Golf Club in Shenzhen.
Sweden's Henrik Stenson, the World no 3, heads the betting while four players who contested the last Ryder Cup will also battle for the winner’s cheque of RMB 3.3million (£320,000).
Medinah heroes Ian Poulter, Nicolas Colsaerts and Francesco Molinari add a touch of class to the field while Jason Dufner again shows a refreshing willingness to widen his horizons and leave the comforts of his home PGA Tour.
The starting line-up also includes Pablo Larrazabal, who was involved in a remarkable incident in Malaysia last week when he had to jump into a lake to escape a swarm of hornets. The Spaniard tweeted on arrival in China that it was "unreal" that the clip has had over 2million hits on Youtube.
This is the 20th staging of the Volvo China Open and the previous 19 have produced winners from 13 different countries. England and Australia share the most with three each, the Aussies increasing their tally after Brett Rumford triumphed at Binhai Lake Golf Club 12 months ago.
As usual, Sky Sports have coverage of all four days, with coverage starting on SS4 at 06:30 on Thursday morning.
From europeantour.com: "Genzon Golf Club is located in the middle city of the Longgang District of Shenzhen. It was opened in 1995, and after the renovation in 2008 it became a 36 hole golf club with championship courses, a 5-star hotel, high-end clubhouse and the best driving range in Shenzhen. The courses were designed by renowned Canadian designer Neil Haworth, and it’s the first golf club in Asia to use the authorized “Platinum” green turf." The course measures 7,145 yards and the par fives (yardages of 547, 536, 543 and 575) should provide plenty of scoring opportunities.
China in their hand
Although there is no course form to go on, several in the field this week, in particular the big names, have impressed at other events in China, suggesting they can adapt to the time difference and change in conditions. Ian Poulter has form figures of 2-15-1-4 from his last four starts in China, the win (2012) and the second (2013) coming in the HSBC Champions in Shanghai. Francesco Molinari also won the HSBC in 2010 and was runner-up in last year's BMW Masters. Nicolas Colsaerts won this event in 2011 at Luxehills International Country Club in Chengdu and was runner-up at Binhai Lake when defending 12 months later. Jason Dufner has some China pedigree too. He was runner-up in the 2012 HSBC Champions.
As with last week's Malaysian Open which saw Lee Westwood romp home by seven shots and Louis Oosthuizen tie for second, this could easily turn into a carve-up between the elite overseas raiders.
The best option looks to be Nicolas Colsaerts, who also shared second place with Oosthuizen last week.
The Belgian has a great record in China - it was the scene of his maiden win - and both his two European Tour victories have been in Volvo-sponsored events, something he's very aware of.
“It’s pretty difficult for me not to feel the Volvo vibes,” he said in Tuesday's press conference. “I have done well in their events and they always put on a pretty good show and look after the players really well.
“They are definitely up there with our biggest supporters and to have a history of doing well in their events always gives you a little boost heading into a Volvo tournament. All of those things are part of feeling so at home over here.”
Colsaerts has been trying his luck - and not having much of it - on the PGA Tour in 2014 but a recent stats report did highlight one area of his game that was improving, his putting.
We're now at the midway point of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season and Colsaerts has moved up 145 spots in strokes gained-putting to 27th (from last season's 172nd). No-one has made a higher jump.
Add that to some impressive ball-striking in Malaysia (he was first in Greens In Regulation with 84.7%), and the comfort zone he feels in when back on the European Tour (despite it being in China, he said “It’s good to be home man” to the press on Tuesday) and everything looks in place for him to have a big week.
Take the big-hitting Belgian at 20/1.
Ian Poulter may be an obvious pick but there are strong grounds for believing he can get the job done this week.
After a poor start at Augusta, he recovered well to shoot four-under (70-70) in the middle two rounds before finally settling for tied 20th - not the result he wanted but enough to suggest his game is close again.
Ian Poulter in action during a table tennis match at the Opening Ceremony
Most compelling though is his record overseas and especially in China. Adding in his win in Hong Kong in 2010 it means his last 10 starts in China have prodcued two wins, a second, two fourths, a fifth and three other top 15s.
The staking plan below means if either Colsaerts or Poulter make the top five, it ensures a profit. Hopefully, though, the two Ryder Cup stars can fight it out for victory.
2pts e.w. Nicolas Colsaerts at 20/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
3pts e.w. Ian Poulter at 10/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)