EUROPEAN TOUR specialist (@Vince_RFC) shares his expert opinion on this week's Maybank Championship.
Maybank Championship | 1st-4th February 2018 | Sky Sports
The European Tour heads to Malaysia for the Maybank Championship this week, which is co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour.
The host for the week is the Palm Course at Saujana Golf and Country Club, located just outside Kuala Lumpur. It’s a course with plenty of elevation changes, raised tees/greens, treacherous hazards and palm tree-lined fairways so very different to the past few weeks.
Course and trends
Last year was the first time the course was used and due to the time difference I can’t say I remember it all that well but I’m fairly sure it’s very easy on the eye. Being it’s maiden outing last year, finding an angle was tough; however, with one tournament in the books, there’s at least something to go on this time round.
Unfortunately, looking at last year nothing really stands out stats-wise. I’ve had a good look at the six guys who returned money though and there’s a few things that jump out. Arguably, other than David Lipsky, all six are established and towards the upper tier of players on the Tour.
Defending champion Fabrizio Zanotti, Lipsky, Bernd Wiesberger, Alex Levy, Haotong Li and Danny Willett all have very good records in the Far East and seems to be something to put a big emphasis on.
Indeed, four of those named went on to finish in the top eight of the Shenzen International last April. That event isn’t on the 2018 calendar unfortunately which is a shame after uncovering that stat.
The Desert Swing that we’ve had the last two weeks in the Middle East has always been a three-week swing until now but a calendar reshuffle has cut it down by a week. Having looked at those six guys, their incoming form from the Desert Swing last year was almost non-existent.
Willett played two of the three but the others all played in all three. The only time any of them recorded a top 30 finish was Wiesberger picking up a fourth in Abu Dhabi. The winner Zanotti managed three straight missed cuts and bounced back to win.
It would be silly to completely write off incoming form based just on last year but something to consider.
Bernd Wiesberger (20/1 Boylesports)
My headline pick this week is Bernd Wiesberger at 20/1 (Boylesports). I’m not always the biggest fan of his but it’s difficult to find reasons to oppose him this week.
The Austrian has course form having finished third last year and has a very good record in the Far East. He teed up out there three more times in 2017 clocking up a record of 1-4-9 and before that finished second at the Malaysian Open on a different course in both 2014 and 2015.
Bernd was also part of the winning European team at the EurAsia Cup held in nearby Kuala Lumpur three weeks ago, so has some very recent experience of the tortuous heat which can only be a bonus. He won his singles match against highly-rated Phachara Khongwatmai and then had a solid if unspectacular Desert Swing.
I’m hoping he can push on and finally win in Malaysia, something which he should be more than capable of achieving against this field.
Paul Peterson (50/1 Betfred)
Paul Peterson is an American who plays on the Asian Tour though is a regular at co-sanctioned events. He’s a previous European Tour winner (2016 Czech Masters) but won his first Asian Tour event last week at the Myanmar Open.
Before the Christmas break he was in decent form too, picking up an eighth, 22nd and second in co/tri-sanctioned events, the latter being in Hong Kong. He’s in good form and in a fairly weak field such as this I fancy him to possibly carry that on.
There’s always a chance of a dip after a win but at 50/1 (Betfred) I’m happy to take a chance on him.
Alexander Bjork (66/1 Betfred)
Alexander Bjork is someone to keep an eye on this season and he’s opened up at 66/1 (Betfred) here which looks very backable.
The young Swede had a good 2017, particularly in the second half of the year, without making a big breakout. I’m sure it’ll come pretty soon and this looks like a ripe opportunity.
He was sat alongside Peterson in second at the Hong Kong Open in November in his best showing of a short career so far. He comes in with some form too with a sixth last week in Dubai, which can hopefully be extended this week.
Poom Saksansin (125/1 SkyBet)
Finally, there seem to be a number of young Thai players coming through at the moment and my final pick is one of them in the shape of Poom Saksansin.
He’s started off the year in good form with a 10th and 12th on the Asian Tour in the last two weeks and was part of the Asian team at the EurAsia Cup the week before that. He managed to beat Paul Casey in the singles there, which is no mean feat.
At the back end of last year he put up 16th and 24th placed finishes at the Hong Kong and WGC HSBC respectively. I was very surprised to see 125/1 (SkyBet) on offer and will gladly take a piece of it before it disappears.
Maybank Championship – Bernd Wiesberger (20/1 each-way Boylesports)
Maybank Championship – Paul Peterson (50/1 each-way Betfred)
Maybank Championship – Alexander Bjork (66/1 each way Betfred)
Maybank Championship – Poom Saksansin (125/1 each way SkyBet)