EUROPEAN TOUR specialist (@Vince_RFC) shares his expert opinion on this week's NBO Oman Open.
NBO Oman Open | 15th-18th February 2018 | Sky Sports
It’s a brand new tournament for the European Tour this week but not an entirely new course for the NBO Oman Open.
The course, located in capital city Muscat, is Al Mouj Golf that has hosted the Challenge Tour each of the last five years, including in November last year.
There are little nuggets on information to take from those renewals but I’m sceptical of reading too much into them.
Conditions in Oman
One of the things to take from those tournaments is the big variance in the winning scores, ranging between -7 and -21. A big reason for that is the weather, or to be more exact, the wind.
The course is right on the banks of the Indian Ocean so if the wind blows it’ll be a tricky task. At the moment it doesn’t look too bad so I’d expect fairly low scoring event.
An interesting note that the main airport is directly next door to the course. It won’t have an impact on play but expect some fancy camera work.
Taking course form as a relevant factor is a dubious tactic. A number of now established European Tour members have had good results here in the past before moving onto bigger things so they are maybe ones to keep an eye on.
But there are also those who have played Al Mouj many times with good results yet haven’t been able to make the step up to the main tour. Again, it’ll be interesting to see how they get on but I’ve no interest in backing them.
Al Mouj looks on the face of it to be a very links-type test but there appears to be a bit more about it. The fairways are narrow, there are some craftily placed bunkers and the rough is apparently on the thick side.
All-in-all, it’s a very tricky one to decipher and definitely a tournament to take note of this week with the future in mind.
Ritchie Ramsay (50/1 Paddy Power)
I’m not overly enamoured by any towards the top of the market so am going to take a few slightly bigger prices this week.
First up, Ritchie Ramsay at 50/1 (Paddy Power). The Scot was tied-sixth at the nearby Dubai Desert Classic last month so has some form whilst he also picked up some good results on links courses last year.
Tied-second at the Irish Open and tied-22nd at The Open are stand outs. Links form may prove not be the best way to go come Sunday but without much else to go on, I’m happy to go along with Ritchie.
Jordan Smith (80/1 Coral)
Jordan Smith burst onto the scene early last year after coming up through the Challenge Tour. He went off the boil in the last few months of last year but it’s only a matter of time until he contends again.
He picked up a 17th place on his only visit to Al Mouj in 2016 which is a good starting point but it’s his form in this part of the world that attracts me to him at 80/1 (Coral).
Other than his breakthrough win at the European Open in July if you look though his results the best ones have all come in the Middle East and north Africa, on both European and Challenge Tours. That’s enough in this slight mystery of a tournament for me.
Callum Shinkwin (125/1 Unibet)
Callum Shinkwin is someone I tend to look at quite often without much success.
I think this might be his type of course though and was pleasantly surprised to see he was tied-third here on his last visit in 2015. He had a very up and down season last year but he should have won the Scottish Open, eventually settling for second.
He’s seen and done well one the course which gives him a slight advantage over others in the field so I’m happy to see 125/1 (Unibet) available.
Matthew Southgate (175/1 Unibet)
Lastly, Matthew Southgate returned us a massive 300/1 each-way place at The Open last year and saves his best performances for links golf. At 175/1 (Unibet) he’s well worth chancing this week.
I backed him for The Open on the back of second and fourth-placed finishes at the last two Irish Opens and tied-12th at the previous Open.
He hasn’t had a great start to the year but if he had we wouldn’t be backing him at such a big price. It’s a bit of a stretch to put this week down as a links test but if it is then Southgate could do better than his price suggests.
NBO Oman Open – Ritchie Ramsay (50/1 each-way Paddy Power)
NBO Oman Open – Jordan Smith (80/1 each-way Coral)
NBO Oman Open – Callum Shinkwin (125/1 each-way Unibet)
NBO Oman Open – Matthew Southgate (175/1 each-way Unibet)