Bombs away. Goodbye Sheshan International, Hello Lake Malaren, but the European Tour Final Series will stay in Shanghai for the BMW Masters. Next week the top 60 in the Race To Dubai rankings will battle it out on the Earth Course at the season ending DP World Tour Championship for the Race To Dubai title and bonus pool.
Focusing on the BMW Masters and once again we see a field capped at 78 with the majority of competitors from the top 60 of the world rankings (as of October 19th) and Race To Dubai, along with 14 Chinese players and 4 potential tournament invitations. Justin Rose - 6.50 - will tee off as heavy favourite, followed by Henrik Stenson - 11.00, with world number 20 Branden Grace third in the betting at 19.00. Grace claimed to have a real "liking for all three courses" he had left to play in the Final Series pre tee off last week and a T5 at the HSBC Champions was a good start to a run at the Race To Dubai. He currently stands sixth.
It's Danny Willett - 23.00 - who sits closest Rory McIlroy on the money list though and the Englishman carded a final round flawless 62 last week to finish T3 and he will be looking to put "real pressure" on the Irishman in his absence this week. Home favourite Hao Tong Li was a large focus of media attention at the WGC - HSBC and he resides in close proximity to Lake Malaren when back in China. It's his home track and one he claims is his favourite. Li has a great record in China this year with 3 top 7 finishes and looks around his fair price now at 67.00.
The course - Lake Malaren
A Jack Nicklaus design that places the emphasis on the second shot, last year Lake Malaren was playing soft and long and conditions looks more or less the same this time around. The fairways were tightened after the 2013 edition but the 2014 leaderboard still showed a strong theme of power from the tees. Large bunkering is again a feature ala Sheshan International and the greens here are equipped with numerous pin positions, placing the premium on approaches - a general characteristic of Jack Nicklaus designs. Driving distance, GIR% and putting all stick out on last years leaderboard here. The course plays to a par 72 circa 7,600 yards and features a risk / reward theme with tempting carries. Water lurks throughout. Greens are marked at 11' on the stimp. Weather wise, the wind can blow here and the course is exposed. Look for the power hitters to dominate.
Three from the Pack
Peter Uihlein - 41.00 or 8.00 - is my big fancy to infiltrate the market leaders this week. Uihlein was on comms in Turkey where he followed up a return to form in Hong Kong (T13) with a T6 finish. He said he was happy with his game, and the course here in Shanghai obviously suits him having finished top 5 in his sole 2013 appearance. A combination of power and putting should hold anyone in good stead around Lake Malaren and Uihlein ranked 5th (driving distance) and 1st respectively in those stats at Sheshan International. Peter also owns a GIR clip of 71.5% this season in Europe. He ranked 9th in driving distance in 2014 and averages over 301 yards this season in Europe.
Following the strong big hitting theme, for me this week Scott Hend - 101.0 or 19.00 - who has averaged 310 yards from the tips in Europe over the last 3 seasons - gets the nod here. Hend was 2nd only to Nico Colsaerts in driving distance in 2014. 3 rounds in the sixties for Hend at the HSBC Championship were followed by a Sunday 73 which leaves the powerful Aussie under the radar. Hend has 2 recent wins under his belt - 1 in Hong Kong and 1 at the Venetian Macau Open. He's now proven himself in big company. Scott owns a T4 at the Porsche European Open 2015 and also finished runner up at the bomber friendly Black Mountain course for the Thailand Classic.
Also on the radar is Rikard Karlberg - 126.0 or 23.00 - who in my opinion is quite simply being disrespected in the market following his maiden European Tour win in Italy. A birdie machine who can send it out there, averaging 295 yards driving distance this year, Karlberg showed another side of his game when winning on the tight treelined GC Milano track a couple of months ago. The Swede has been simmering since that win but rebounded into 1st gear with a Sunday 67 last time out at the Turkish Airlines Open. Rikard has recorded 4 top 10s in his last 11 non major strokeplay events on the European Tour and as an added positive, he's used to the Asian climate and culture having resided in Thailand.