Golf: Four fancies to start the 2018 European Tour season off in style

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EUROPEAN Tour golf specialist Vince Blissett (@Vince_RFC) returns to share his thoughts on the upcoming Hong Kong Open.

Hong Kong Open | 23rd-26th November 2017 | Sky Sports

The 2017 season may have only just finished but it’s business as usual as we go straight into the 2018 season for three weeks before a short break over the Christmas and New Year period.

The first destination is Hong Kong and rather surprisingly some of the bigger names have made the trip. Reigning Race to Dubai winner Tommy Fleetwood and runner up Justin Rose are joined by Sergio Garcia, Matt Fitzpatrick and Rafa Cabrera-Bello in the Far East.

After the rigours of the last few weeks it’s hard to know how they’ll approach this week so it’s possibly best to take a swerve on the top of the market.

Course background

The course this week is the complete opposite of last week. It’s short, narrow, tree-lined and has small greens so a different skill set is going to be required.

Over previous renewals GIR and Scrambling have been the key stats, without excelling in those areas the chances of contending look to be slim.

The natural instinct is to look towards short, accurate types but that’s not necessarily been the case but something to keep in mind. There are a few courses that look to correlate quite nicely to Hong Kong GC.

Without delving too deep here there are more than a few examples of good performances here and at Crans-Sur-Mierre, home of the European Masters. I’ve also a feeling that the Maybank in Malaysia and also the Lyoness Open could be comparisons so I’m taking a slight look at past results in the search for winner.

Dylan Frittelli (40/1 Stan James)

My first pick is actually the winner of the Lyoness Open back in June and that’s Dylan Frittelli. I was disappointed to miss out on his win after backing him a fair few times at the start of the year but the South African looks to be back in form and potentially on the cusp of another win.

He was second in Turkey three weeks ago, 42nd the following week but bounced back with a fourth last week in Dubai. Stats-wise Dylan is fairly consistent with his scrambling and GIR numbers, which are both very good.

He’s also got a liking for this part of the world – in the last 13 months he’s played in China/Hong Kong five times with his results reading 2-5-MC-6-6. Unfortunately, the missed cut was in this tournament last year, but I can look past that.

At 40/1 he sits in behind the big names alongside fairly average players and is by far the one in that group I like most to kick the season off well.

Ashun Wu (80/1 Sportingbet)

I always like having at least one of the Asian players onside when out in the Far East and Ashun Wu is the stand out at 80/1 when looking down the market. The briefest of research solidifies that thought.

Twentieth last time out at the HSBC Champions WGC is a good result considering the strength of the field. But going back slightly further he was 10th at the Lyoness and ninth at Crans this calendar year.

He actually went to the Lyoness as defending champion so I’ve ended up with the last two winners of that one so I better hope that likeness stands up.

It’s his first appearance in Hong Kong but he’s got a good record in China, including winning the China Open in 2015. He may well find that this course suits him and if it does 80/1 is a big price in this field.

Miguel Tabuena (150/1 Coral)

A couple of triple figures to round things off., starting with Miguel Tabuena who has been in very good form on the Asian Tour recently with form reading 3-21-7-16.

Without having much detailed knowledge of what’s going on over there makes it tricky but his putting has been abysmal whilst every other part of his game excellent in those events. That’s a worry but I’ll be a fool and ignore it for now.

The Filipino made one trip to Europe in the summer and interestingly that was for the Lyoness Open. I’ve no idea the thought process behind that but it’d be interesting to find out. Did he target it as it suited him game? Maybe.

He was 47th in that but ranked sixth in all round ranking so it could be that was indeed the reason. On the downside it was the putting that let him down massively, again, lets ignore that.

Instead lets find a positive – he was second in Malaysia in 2016. At 150/1 (Coral) he’s too big a price even with the putting problems.

Siddikur Rahman (500/1 Stan James)

Lastly there are two Asian Tour members who I always look for in these type of events, SSP Chawrasia and Siddikur Rahman. The former is 125/1 but astonishingly Rahman is way out at 500/1 with Stan James (300s best elsewhere).

If anything I’d have Rahman shorter than Charwasia. He’s one of the shortest hitters around but that hasn’t stopped him putting up good results in the past. Third at the European Masters was the highlight of last season amongst several good showings on the Asian Tour.

Eighteenth is his best result in Hong Kong and whilst it would be a surprise for him to win he’s got the game to pop up with good performances. The trick is picking the right courses with him and this could be one of them that suits him.

At 500/1 I can’t resist chancing my arm on him

Best Bets

Hong Kong Open – Dylan Frittelli (40/1 each-way Stan James)

Hong Kong Open – Ashun Wu (80/1 each-way Sportingbet)

Hong Kong Open – Miguel Tabuena (125/1 each-way Coral)

Hong Kong Open – Siddikur Rahman (500/1 each-way Stan James)

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