DEBUTANT contributor and European Tour golf specialist Vince Blissett (@Vince_RFC) makes his WLB bow covering the Maybank Championship.
Maybank Championship | 9th–12th February 2017 | Sky Sports 4
So, here we are then….
I’ve always believed that the best way to start things off is with a little light humour. Obviously, it doesn’t always work; if you’re delivering a eulogy for example, it can very easily turn out to be a grave mistake.
Anyway, the desert swing portion of the European Tour season has finished and heads east to Malaysia this week for the Maybank Championship, which is co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour.
The Palm Course at Saujana Golf and Country Club located just outside Kuala Lumpur hosts the action – it’s a par-72 course with plenty of elevation changes, raised tees/greens, treacherous hazards and palm tree lined fairways ready to cause problems for anyone that goes a bit wayward.
As always, being out in the Far East means that if you want to catch any of it on Sky Sports you need to be a very early riser, which means I won’t be seeing anything unless one of the following is in contention in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Saujana G&CC hosted the Malaysian Open six times at the start of the millennium – most recently in 2009 – so there’s something to go on but not that much.
The stats from those tournaments though indicate that putting, driving accuracy and greens in regulation are probably the ones to look at. For those interested around 1/3 of this week’s field played in any of those tournaments.
There are three players heading the betting, all of whom can be discounted at the prices available. Charl Schwartzel hasn’t played for two months and comes into this best price 12/1 (BetVictor) which is too short considering he’s not been seen for so long.
Bernd Wiesberger holds no appeal at 14/1 (Ladbrokes) even though he has been in decent form for a while now; the problem is he just can’t win.
The third is Rafa Cabrera-Bello who played here in both 2007 and 2009 finishing 68th and 37th. Much like Wiesberger, he has been in good form but 12/1 (Ladbrokes) on a player that hasn’t won since 2012 holds no appeal either.
There is however someone in the next group of players in the betting that stands out.
Thongchai Jaidee (25/1 Ladbrokes)
My first pick is Thongchai Jaidee, who has course form having won here in both 2004 and 2005. It’s a long time ago I know but on a course that a lot of the field won’t have seen before this week, he should already be at a slight advantage.
Last week in Dubai Thongchai finished 15th, ranking second in driving accuracy and eighth in greens in regulation – hopefully stats that should be key this week.
He’s won a single European Tour event in four of the last five seasons and the not-so-young-anymore Thai has a chance to carry on that streak nice and early this year.
Joakim Lagergren (50/1 Ladbrokes)
Anyone that followed my picks last week would have been on Joakim Lagergren. Unfortunately he found himself on the wrong side of the severely weather-impacted draw, but nonetheless he put together an impressive performance considering the conditions to finish in a tie for 23rd.
At 50/1 I’m happy to chance my arm with him once more.
Ignoring last week as that would be slightly unfair, he lost out in a play-off at the Qatar Masters the previous week. He finished that tournament ranked ninth for driving accuracy, 19th for greens in regulation and seventh for putts per-round.
He’s in good form and if he can continue it here he may just go one better than in Qatar.
Soomin Lee (200/1 Betfred)
For a third pick I always like to try and pick out someone at triple-figure odds and there are a few that tempted me this week, I won’t reveal them now as there may well be better opportunities for them in the coming weeks.
My final pick though is the young Korean Soomin Lee at 200/1. It’s fair to say he made a pretty good start to life on the European Tour.
On debut in late 2015 in Hong Kong he finished tied for third, alongside a certain Patrick Reed. He then followed that up with a second place in his next start at this tournament last year but only after squandering a three shot advantage going into the final round.
He obviously learnt from that experience quickly because he won his first tournament at the Shenzhen International in China on only his sixth start on Tour.
The rest of the season didn’t follow the same trajectory although that can easily be understood, it can’t be easy for a young man to suddenly find himself travelling all over Europe every week.
This week he’s back in his home country and in a part of the world he’s had a lot of success in already and I was more than happy to see him priced up at 200/1.