It’s less than a week since Tommy Fleetwood did just about enough to best Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia in the Race to Dubai and yet it’s already time for the new European Tour season to begin. All three of the main protagonists from the finale of last season are in the field for the first event of the 2018 season, the UBS Hong Kong Open.
Composite Course Set to Test the Players’ Accuracy
Jon Rahm’s win at the DP World Tour Championship was yet another victory for long hitters at the Earth Course. The challenge posed by Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling could not be more different. The championship course – which is made up of holes from each of the Old, New and Eden courses at the club – is one at which the most accurate players rise to the top.
At just 6,710 yards, the par 70 layout is very short by European Tour standards. The course’s main defence is its tree-lined fairways, well placed hazards and the questions it poses with irons and wedges. The player who ultimately ends the week on top must play the par fours better than the majority, routinely hit fairways and be able to get up and down for par when the greens are inevitably missed.
Fitzpatrick Can Get the Better of Experienced Company at the Top of the Betting
Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia are the top two in the early betting for the Hong Kong Open. Garcia is making his debut at this event and his performance in Dubai last week was patchy enough to suggest that he’s one to swerve. The same can be said of Rose, even though his form at Fanling includes a victory in 2015. Rose is bound to be drained after falling short in Dubai and even in such a rich vein of form, winning a championship of this quality should be beyond him.
Of the early favourites, the player who offers most appeal is Matt Fitzpatrick. The 23-year-old has played a lot of golf himself recently but there were few signs of fatigue in Dubai. Fitzpatrick has reached the upper echelons of golf thanks to a game built on hitting fairways and greens, while he continues to reap the benefit of serious work on his chipping and putting.
Fitzpatrick may be young but he’s got plenty of experience in big tournaments. He clearly believes he belongs at this level and can cement his position inside the world’s top 30 players with victory at Fanling where he is 11/1 with Coral.
Accurate Pair Worth Chancing at Long Odds
The Hong Kong Open has been won by some very big names since becoming part of the European Tour but we’ve also seen unfancied players secure a place to the delight of those who backed them each way. In that spirit it could be worth taking a chance on both Matteo Manassero (90/1 with Betfred) and Thomas Aiken (200/1 with Bet365).
Aiken is a hugely experienced golfer who hit more greens in regulation than almost anybody on the European Tour last season. As for Manassero, he’s twice finished inside the top four at this event and has been working incredibly hard on his game over the past year.