Hong Kong: Best bets
Dave Tindall looks at the leading contenders and top wagers for this week's UBS Hong Kong Open
By Dave Tindall. Last Updated: 13/11/12 4:24pm
Rory McIlroy: will he be holding the trophy again on Sunday afternoon?
Fresh from wrapping up the Race To Dubai and securing the money list title on both sides of the Atlantic, Rory McIlroy bids to do something he's never done before - defend a title.
The world number one is the red-hot favourite to make it back-to-back wins on the Fanling course - a, very short by modern standards, 6734-yard par 70.
Going low is the order of the day and Ian Poulter (not playing this week) shot a 60 on his way to winning the title here in 2010.
The weather in advance of the event has been very warm but the forecast during the four days of tournament play is listed as "mixed".
The market leaders (Sky Bet odds):
Rory McIlroy (5/2): McIlroy first played on the Fanling course as a junior in the Faldo Series and his four pro starts in this event have yielded a victory, two second places and a sixth. No wonder he says: "I love tree-lined courses and Hong Kong is definitely one of my favourites anywhere in the world. The trees frame the holes really well, there's a lot of definition on the course and it makes it easy to visualise the shots I want to hit." Last year he took the title in memorable fashion by holing from sand and he's a short-priced favourite to repeat. His third place in Singapore last week wrapped up the Race To Dubai so he's on a high and everything looks in his favour.
Latest strokeplay form: 3-2-10-1
Course form: 1-6-2-2
World ranking: 1
Matt Kuchar (16/1): The American Ryder Cup star will be going in search of his maiden European Tour title when he makes his Fanling debut. He does have winning form on mainline China though after teaming up with Gary Woodland to capture the World Cup at Mission Hills in 2011 while he also shot a round two 66 to win both invididual and team honours at the World Celebrity Pro-Am held at Mission Hills last month. This his is first strokeplay start since a 10th at the Tour Championship in September but the Fanling course should suit him and he's an obvious threat to McIlroy.
Latest strokeplay form: 10-54-35-38
Course form: n/a
World ranking: 17
Matteo Manassero (16/1): A brilliant eagle in the play-off helped the young Italian take victory in Singapore last week and that made him the first teenager in European Tour history to register three victories. He placed 29th and 53rd respectively in his next starts after his previous two victories but this is the first time he'll be playing the week after a win. He missed the cut here last year but on his debut in 2010 he was runner-up after shooting a 62 in the final round. This short course is definitely one on which he can thrive.
Latest strokeplay form: 1-46-12-MC
Course form: MC-2
World ranking: 46
Paul Casey (20/1): It says much about Casey's resurgence that there was a slight sense of disappointment at his 10th place in Singapore last week. Although he didn't make a title bid, it was still a third successive top 10 and the 2012 slump which saw him rack up 13 missed cuts in 16 starts now appears a distant memory. Casey has only played here once (shooting 74-68 to miss the cut in 2005) but this is his final chance to make the top 60 who contest next week's Race To Dubai. Casey is 74th so will be hugely motivated to make his late bid count.
Latest strokeplay form: 10-6-5-MC
Course form: MC (2005)
World ranking: 108
Anders Hansen (25/1): The Dane has quietly been amassing an impressive series of results over the autumn and his seventh place in Singapore last week was his fourth top 10 in seven starts. He was ranked the most accurate driver last week and also hit 75% of greens in regulation so if he can hole some putts he should be up there again. Hansen has made six cuts out of six at this venue although nothing better than the 11th he managed on his most recent apperance in 2010. He admitted then that there are other courses which suit him more.
Latest strokeplay form: 7-43-27-47
Course form: 11-29-53-20
World ranking: 63
YE Yang (25/1): Asia's first, and still only, major winner arrives in Hong Kong in his best form of the season. October brought a second in the China Masters, a third in the Korea Open (both OneAsia Tour events) and a 10th in last week's Singapore Open. His Fanling form is pretty solid too and last year he was third going into the final round before eventually finishing seventh.
Latest strokeplay form: 10-46-3-2
Course form: 7-19-29-61
World ranking: 86
Padraig Harrington (25/1): After gatecrashing and winning the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, the Dubliner was expected to be a big force in Singapore last week but never got going and missed the cut after rounds of 74-73. So will a return to Fanling bring out the best in him? Last year he played the event for the first time in seven years and was 51st but before that he'd won here in 2003 and finished runner-up when defending the following year. Despite those good memories, Harrington said last year that the course doesn't suit any one style of player.
Latest strokeplay form: MC-16-29-16
Course form: 51-2-1
World ranking: 62
Best of the rest:
Simon Dyson (33/1): Always a player to look out for in Asia, victory in this event in 2000 helped him win that season's Asian Order of Merit. More recently, he's finished eighth in 2009 while on his last appearance in 2010 he was runner-up after shooting a 64 and three 65s. Tied 24th in Singapore last week after lying fifth at halfway.
Thongchai Jaidee (50/1): The Thai is a real course specialist at Fanling and has made every cut since this event became a co-sanctioned tournament in 2001. He's made seven straight top 20s here with a best of second in 2007. Missed the cut in Singapore last week though.
Kristoffer Broberg (55/1): Not a familar name to most yet but watch out for the young Swede in 2013. He's had a sensational second half of the season on the Challenge Tour with three wins in August and another in Denmark in October. He's had a recent early dabble on the main tour without much success but surely it's a matter of time before he shows up strongly.
The reasons to back Rory McIlroy this week are numerous and, quite simply, the simplest thing is just to put the entire stake on the world number one.
He faces just one other member of the world's top 25 (17th ranked Matt Kuchar) and this is one of his favourite venues.
For more value, look to Simon Dyson and Thongchai Jaidee.
After McIlroy's 66.13, they are the two players with the lowest stroke average at Fanling over the last four years (Dyson 66.90, Jaidee 67.75).
Dyson played very nicely for two rounds last week before fading while Jaidee's superb course form and decent play at the HSBC and the previous week's China Masters makes it easy to ignore his MC in Singapore.