With no PGA TOUR action this week, we turn our attention to the Euro Tour where they head to Fanling, Hong Kong, for the UBS Hong Kong Open.
Hong Kong Golf Club is the venue this week. It’s a rare par 70 for the Euro Tour, checking in at just 6,710 yards. That brings the bombers back to an even playing field off the tee as tight, tree-lined fairways will force golfers to use less-than-driver throughout the round.
The fairways and rough are a bermuda/zoysia mix. You may remember Zoysia popping up in Rio. Perhaps then, it’s not too surprising to see Justin Rose as the defending champ at both venues. There may be a few more golfers we can target with this Zoysia link, but more on that below.
Players to Watch
Thongchai Jaidee… Last week we had Charl Schwartzel as the plug-and-play course horse, this week it’s Jaidee. Looking at his last 32 rounds here at Fanling, he’s beat the field average by 2+ strokes in 20 of those rounds. That has resulted in seven straight top 20s here. You can actually go two years farther and find he’s posted nine straight top 20s at this venue. There is nothing in his form that screams “stay away” so I think that makes him the man to beat this week.
Marcus Fraser… Looking at our Rio Zoysia link, Fraser’s name certainly becomes an interesting one. At the Rio Olympic Games he fired a 63 in the opening round, which turned out to be the co-low round of the week. He’s also enjoyed a heap of success here at Hong Kong GC, grabbing top 15s in five of his last eight visits. On most weeks, he’s playing catch-up off the tee, and relies heavily on his flat stick, but with an extremely short course like this, he’s at an even playing field on the tee box, and that allows his smooth putting stroke to shine.
Rafa Cabrera Bello… If you’re handing out trophies based on who deserves it most, RCB certainly has to be in the running. His 2016 calendar year has been filled with top 20s (15 of them) but he sports no trophies to go along with the stellar play. He also fared well in Rio, posting a T5.
Tommy Fleetwood… If you want to swerve the course history buffs, Fleetwood should be well off their radar as he makes his tournament debut this week. His run of form since August makes him a great option.
Pablo Larrazabal… It’s been a while since the Spaniard has pegged it up at HKGC, but an 8th place and 4th place over his last four visits, certainly showcase his upside. The other two trips resulted in missed cuts, so we know we’re dealing with some volatility here.
Thomas Detry… The former Illini earned a Euro Tour card through his strong play on the Challenge Tour and he wasted no time putting the card to good use, finishing in third place last week at the Alfred Dunhill. He made waves on the international stage in August with his 12-shot romp at the Bridgestone Challenge. That went in the books as the largest margin of victory on the Challenge Tour, beating the previous mark of 10 set by BROOKS KOEPKA. I’m not saying he’s the next Koepka, but he does have plenty of pedigree and loads of upside moving forward. Worth a flyer until he cools off, if he ever does. .
Peter Uihlein… Speaking of Koepka and pedigree, Uihlen was supposed to be on the same path as Brooks, and raking in the cash on the PGA TOUR by now. Injuries derailed him last year, and he’s yet to find his bearings since returning. However, he’s found top 25s in 9 of his last 18 starts in Asia, including a T13 here last year. Looking at his current form, it’s easy to avoid him, but I think this is a venue that should allow him to get back into contention.
Jorge Campillo… The Spaniard has teed it up in 13 events using bermudagrass greens since 2015, posting top 25s in seven of those. If he posted that kind of ratio on a regular basis, he’d have the same kind of name recognition as Danny Willett or Thongchai Jaidee. Instead, he’s Jorge Campillo and we reserve the right to invest only on bermuda until he proves otherwise. With bermuda on the greens this week, it could be a week we see Campillo pop.
Angelo Que… Five top 15s in his last nine visits to Hong Kong GC. He’s a course horse that should have low ownership.
Ian Poulter… Has a lot of name recognition and his course history is great. The only problem is that Poulter has looked like a shell of his old self for quite a while now. I do think this is a week where he could throw his name into the mix, but I’m not banking on it. I think a finish in the 15-to-35 range is much more likely.
My Top 25 for the 2017 Hong Kong Open
1. Thongchai Jaidee
2. Rafa Cabrera Bello
3. Patrick Reed
4. Marcus Fraser
5. Tommy Fleetwood
6. Pablo Larrazabal
7. Stephen Gallacher
8. Danny Willett
9. Julien Quesne
10. Mikko Ilonen
11. David Lipsky
12. Gregory Bourdy
13. Peter Uihlein
14. Justin Rose
15. Jorge Campillo
16. Angelo Que
17. Ian Poulter
18. Miguel Angel Jimenez
19. Robert Rock
20. Carlos Pigem
21. Thomas Detry
22. David Drysdale
23. Dylan Frittelli
24. Gregory Havret
25. Chris Hanson