Overview and betting markets
Golf for the year is all but over though there's a surprisingly busy schedule this week. Included on the roster is The Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas where Tiger Woods - 34.00 - is set to make his eagerly awaited return, and he says he's ready for action. Albany Golf club will host for the second year and we can expect low scoring in what is predominantly a big hitter’s paradise. Some of the biggest names in golf will compete in an 18-man field led by Dustin Johnson - 5.50 - and Jordan Spieth - 7.00.
We also have two official European Tour events to kick off the new season Race To Dubai. Royal Pines Resort has been hosting the Australian PGA since 2013, and as of last year, the event became co-sanctioned by the European Tour. Nathan Holman - 61.00 - won his maiden European Tour title after a three-man playoff. Queensland man Adam Scott owns a 1-2 form line here at Royal Pines Resort and is red hot favourite in the betting at 4.50. The track this week is tight and tree-lined, with undulating greens and water hazards. Emphasis will be on accuracy and short game over power. Scoring was high in relation to par last year due to the elements but is expected to return to the norm this week.
The second of the European Tour events is our annual trip to Leopard Creek where one man's dominance resembles that of Tiger Woods in his pomp on the PGA Tour: Charl Schwartzel - 4.00 - won here in 2004 and then clocked up a number of runner-up finishes at Leopard Creek, right up until 2012 when he won it again, shooting the current tournament record total of -24 under par. He then went on to win another two of the next three renewals and comes in as reigning champ. Charl tees up following a third place finish in the DP World Tour Championship, ominous for the rest of the field. He tied for 4th in Dubai pre last year's winning renewal.
"You need to drive the ball well around here" is a line often associated with Leopard Creek - a track playing circa 7,287 yards to a par of 72, comprising relatively tight to average width fairways and the penal Kikuyu rough, in the Bushveld. Solid ball striking from tee to green is the premium this week and experience will be an advantage. Sticking to the home players usually pays at Leopard Creek. Thomas Aiken is the course record holder on the track with a round of 61.
Best Bets - Hero World Challenge
Jimmy Walker - 34.00 or 7.00 - took silver with Rickie Fowler at the World Cup Of Golf. Well, they came second anyway and I don't really understand the price of Walker in an 18-man field. Yes, he went into a bit of a slump but this is the man who won the PGA Championship. More importantly he's one of the best around with the flat stick and birdies are the brief at Albany. Jimmy ranked 24th in driving distance last season, 17th in birdie average and he improved his wedge game immensely, ranking in the top 10 for approaches inside 150 yards (on average). Walker hit three rounds in the mid-sixties here last year for a T8. A 3rd round 71 cost him a shot at the victory.
Alfred Dunhill Championship best bet
Zander Lombard 67.00 Or 14.00 is one of South Africa's finest up and coming talents and the big man is rounding nicely into form ahead of this week. Zander narrowly missed out in European Tour Qschool, shooting a closing round of +4 to take him outside the top 25 and ties. The 21-year-old had opened with a pair of 67s. He bounced back nicely though with a final round (-6) to record a T4 at the Cape Town Open last week. Relative to the field he looks a nice value price this week across the books. On a side note: oddly enough, Lombard was actually 4th in the corresponding Australian PGA Championship this time last year.
Australian PGA Championship best bet and ones to watch
Marcus Fraser - 56.00 or 11.00 - was being backed pre the Dubai World Championship which raised an eyebrow. In my opinion, the Earth Course was totally unsuitable but I kept an eye on him anyway. It was a mixed bag and an opening 69 and closing 67 sandwiched poor rounds. I'm seeing some blue on him again pre this week's event and also a price disparity across the board. I'm prepared to go with him here given my research on the Royal Pines track in question. Fraser is one of the shortest but also generally one of the straightest hitters on tour and his short game is where Marcus excels, with a putts per round sub 29 every year and even as low as 27.81 in 2012. A very similar player, Greg Chalmers, won here in 2014. Fraser looks the best value of the field for me.
Big prices on young starlets Todd Sinnott - 8.00 top 10 - and Jarryd Felton - 12.00 top 10 - are worth looking at in the sub markets here in my opinion, as well as the first round leader markets. Sinnott was top 30 here last season and top 30 last week where he was right in contention after 36 holes. Prior to a missed cut at the Aus Open, Felton was on a 5-2 finishing position streak. Big things are expected of both.