The Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club plays host to the 54th Malaysian Open this week. Defending champion Lee Westwood heads the betting in a field that the tournament organisers are rightly proud of. Plenty of players who took part in the ‘Desert Swing’ events over the past three weeks will tee it up alongside some of the best golfers plying their trade on the Asian Tour.
The parkland course plays just under 7,000 yards and has water in play on many of the holes. In terms of scoring, the front nine plays considerably easier than the back nine so whoever wins is likely to have lead from the front. In fact, the first round leader has recorded wire-to-wire victories the last two years.
Last year, Westwood showed his commitment to the tournament by flying to Malaysia directly after finishing seventh in the Masters. This year, the omens are looking good for a repeat victory. His game is well suited to the course; he looked sharp when finishing ninth in Dubai; he plays well when coming back from a break (this is only his second event of the year); and he can handle hot conditions. All of this is reflected in his price. At 7/1 generally, the bookies are offering fair value on Westwood. If he can get his putter going then everything else is in place for his title defence.
The major difficulty for Westwood will be overcoming the quality of his competitors. With challenges possible from so many, two particular players stand out as being well suited for the Kuala Lumpur course. The first is Graeme McDowell. The major winner returned to action strongly last week following the birth of his daughter. The 10-time European Tour winner can take the course apart on his best showing and can be backed at 16/1 with Bet365. The second player is Bernd Wiesberger. The Austrian is arguably the most in-form player in the field at the moment having placed in the top 10 in each of the last three events. Last year he finished in a tie for second so he knows exactly how to score well around Kuala Lumpur. The best price you can get for him to go one better this year is 12/1 at Ladbrokes.
As this is an event which is co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours, it is advisable to include Asian Tour players in your staking. The two men who most appeal are Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphinbarnrat. With a 20 year age gap between the pair, they are at different ends of their career but both are previous winners of the Malaysian Open. Jaidee’s victory in 2004 was the first of his six European Tour wins and made him the first Thai golfer to ever win on the tour. He doesn’t possess the same length off the tee as the other main contenders but his greens in regulation and scrambling statistics make up for that. Aphinbarnrat also claimed his maiden tour victory by winning this event. Although he has so far been unable to add to his 2013 win he averages over 300 yards with his driver and he has some of the best putting statistics of anybody in the field. Both players can be backed at 50/1 (Jaidee with Ladbrokes, Aphinbarnrat with Totesport). With the bookies paying out on five places you can either back them both each-way or turn to Ladbrokes’ top five finish market where Jaidee is 10/1 and Aphinbarnrat is 9/1.