It's the last event of the regular season on the European Tour before the Final Series gets underway and players will be trying to force their way into both the top 60 and top 110 in the Race To Dubai rankings. The top 60 qualify for the lucrative season ending DP World Championship while the top 110 retain their European Tour playing privileges for 2016. The Hong Kong Open is almost a unique test of golf for the pros and we should see some drama unfold. Ian Poulter - 19.00 - has has kicked it off early, flying in from Florida as a late entry to retain European Tour membership status and thus a potential Ryder Cup berth.
Scott Hend - 34.00 - won here last year and also notched a win last week in the Venetian Macau Open but despite his big hitting prowess, Hong Kong Golf club is very much an A to B pinpoint test of golfing accuracy. A look down past leaderboards will show a theme of experienced plodders with Spaniard Miguel Jimenez - 29.00 - the main protagonist. This for me looks a tournament within a tournament but I'd have the leading 10 or so contenders very close in price so there's value towards the front in my opinion.
The Course - Hong Kong Golf Club, Fanling
"It's a very tight, tricky, fiddly golf course with fairways at a premium,” “The greens are quite small so if you can hit the fairways you give yourself a better chance of finding more putting surfaces"" It’s a strategic golf course and not long at all. There are certain holes you can take on and others where you need to be very accurate". This is what Gmac's Caddy Ken Comboy had to say on the Hong Kong GC track that measures just 6,700 yards to a par of 70. It pretty much says it all as to what's required and recent leaderboards here will back it up. He goes on to talk about the tricky rough that can be hard to gauge. Treelined fairways are twisty and equipped with doglegs; you need to be able to shape the ball both ways from the tee. Scrambling around the small greens will be of high importance.
Three from the pack
A player who should thrive in this part of the world is the ever consistent Thongchai Jaidee - 17.00 or 4.50 - who has not finished outside of the top 20 in 8 appearances here since 2005. The recent winner of the Porsche European Open in Germany, Jaidee warmed back up with a T36 in Macau following a three week break and will be raring to go again in Fanling. Jaidee ranks a lofty 8th in the scrambling department with an average of just 28.4 putts per round.
"Graeme’s had some success here in the past, it’s a course he likes and we’ve been around here enough to know we’ve got game plans. They might not pay off every day but if we stick to it we should be there or there abouts come Sunday.” is again what Ken Comboy had to say on Graeme McDowell's - 21.00 or 5.00 - chances this week and it's a case of horses for courses for a man coming into form with a couple of top 20s in his last 5 and a top 30 finish at Woburn last time out. McDowell owns finishes of 6-11-18-5 here in Hong Kong. Gmac ranked 12th in fairways hit in the 2014/15 season on the PGA Tour.
Anirban Lahiri - 26.00 or 6.00 - has been one of the season's most improved players. He's won twice on the tour this year at the Maybank Malaysian Open and at the Hero Indian Open. He also notched a 5th place finish at the PGA Championship. The Indian comes here off the back of 4 top 10s in his last 6 events, culminating in a runner up spot at the Venetian Macau last week. Lahiri was 12th in Fanling in 2013 so has some course experience in the bag.
A man who has been sneaking along nicely under the radar this year is former major PGA Champion YE Yang - 51.00 or 11.00. Yang has been beginning to show some of the form of old on the European Tour this season, simmering nicely with a handful of solid finishes including top 25s in Italy, Scotland and Switzerland. Yang also has form at Hong Kong GC with progressive 29-19-7 finishes here towards the turn of the decade.