It's safety first on an unknown track in China, while flirting with the danger through a risk reward theme is the brief in Louisiana; The Ian Woosnam designed Topwin GC at the base of the Beijing mountains and Great Wall Of China will host the China Open for the first time, while the Pete Dye designed TPC Louisiana is annually one of the tougher tracks in terms of proximity to the hole on the PGA Tour.
Hudson Swafford- 151.0 - "You know, I feel like you kind of have to take the trouble off the tee" - regarding decent angles in to the pins on a number of holes.
Dan Berger - " It reminds me of a Florida style golf course, I'm used to seeing water on one side of the hole. You've just got to pick your targets and hit good shots"
Zurich Classic and Volvo China Open Betting markets
A trio of big names head the betting in Louisiana for the Zurich Classic, with Jason Day - 6.00, Justin Rose - 9.00 - and a (hopefully) refreshed Rickie Fowler - 13.00 - following a quick holiday - teeing it up this week. Further down the field looks pretty weak and wide open. Aussie Marc Leishman - 51.00 - is a standout price in the betting and arguably looks the big value play, with 11.00 also available on the place. Marc recorded a top 30 here last year which included a second round 63. Smylie Kaufman - 34.00 - is a graduate from LSU that had an enjoyable week with the aforementioned Fowler, and he may be worth a look off the back of a superb Masters debut effort.
Over on the European Tour, Joost Luiten - 9.00 - is the dominant force on this season and comes to Topwin GC for the Volvo China Open off the back of two runner-up finishes. He's yet to win in 2016 but he would be an outstanding favourite this week if not for the presence of Austrian Bernd Wiesberger - 15.00 - whose tee to green game should stand him in good stead for the new venue. Scott Hend and Alex Noren look tempting at 29.00 a piece but I'm opting to look further down the market and play it safer on a track that looks like it could put up some black numbers if a little errant.
Course features and premiums
Topwin GC - We have little to go on in China but Topwin is a course set in the backdrop of the Beijing Mountains at the base of the Great Wall of China. It plays to a par 72, 7,261 yards in length. It's a parkland course with plenty of trouble on both sides in the form of the treeline, and water features on all but three holes. Greens are undulating, some with run offs so accuracy from the tee and scrambling look like they may be key. Low numbers can be shot, with Bryden MacPherson shooting 63 here en route to a PGA Tour China win at the Cadillac last year.
TPC Louisiana - A lengthy par 72 track pushing 7,500 yards, I mentioned the risk reward theme here: Pete Dye designs are always visually intimidating but generally have more room than there looks to be. This is the case at TPC Louisiana. The problem is accessing pins on average sized undulating greens with run offs and deep pot bunkers in the surrounds. Close proximity to the hole generally proves difficult especially if the wind gets up and TPC Louisiana can play long if up-breeze. Taking risks from the tee and top shot making skills will be required but plenty of birdies are usually circled at the Zurich Classic. Taking advantage of the par 5s may be pivotal. Water features alongside a number of holes.
Top Betting Tips
Billy Horschel - 21.00 or 5.00 - is a big fan of TPC Louisiana following a win in 2013 here: "I've always been a fan of Pete Dye courses, I just for some reason seem to focus more on courses he designs" You remember a lot of good things, I seem to be at a sense of ease" "This is probably the one tournament I was really looking forward to playing in, to be back here is just such a great feeling", is what Billy had to say in the year of his defence. Arguably 2016 is the only year since that he actually carries in good current form, coming off the back of three top 20s, culminating in a fourth place finish at the Valero Texas Open on Sunday.
Dan Berger - 26.00 or 6.00 - " It's just a great layout, "It kind of reminds me of where I grew up down in Florida and I feel comfortable here" is what the Floridian had to say about TPC Louisiana following a sixth place finish in his debut here in 2015 and Daniel is the obvious choice in terms of trending course and current form. Berger is an aggressive birdie machine with three top 11 finishes now in his last 4 including a top 10 at The Masters. Daniel is 33rd in birdie average and 35th in strokes gained: total, so far in 2016.
Volvo China Open
Bradley Dredge - 51.00 or 11.00 - is a player very much still under the radar this year despite a return to the form of old. Bradley is renowned for his ability on and around the greens which is why I really fancy him as my best value play at Topwin. Dredge is averaging just 28.35 PPR from the beginning of 2015 and he's teed it up five times this year - including all three events on the Middle East swing - and finished no worse than 35th. He comes to Topwin off the back of a solo 7th place finish in China last week where his stats show top form in all departments. Bradley's best finish of the season was fourth in Qatar.