Big Bubba In Little China
The European Tour heads back to Asia this week with a stellar cast off to China for the Shenzen International.
As part of the European Tour’s continued expansion into China, this inaugural edition of the Shenzen International is the first of four Chinese events on this year’s schedule. Despite a modest prize fund and a slot in the calendar immediately after the Masters, the organisers have managed to attract several top European players and have pulled off something of a coup by signing up double Masters winner Bubba Watson.
The Genzon Golf Club, Shenzen, has previously hosted both the China Open and the Indian Open. At 7145 yards it is fairly long by European Tour standards, but the generous fairways offer some margin for error off the tee. There are a few gentle undulations and plenty of tropical vegetation, but the main hazard is water, the course being designed to fit around the edges of the enormous 700-acre Dragon Lake.
In The Bunker
Pablo Larrazabal was last seen finishing third in Morocco, and goes into this event as antepost second favourite, but I think he can be opposed this week. He has a reasonable record on Chinese soil, but this course doesn’t suit his game and the last time he played it, in last year’s 2014 China Open, he finished way down the field. There’s better value to be had elsewhere and he doesn’t appeal at 22/1.
There are some tournaments in which backing the short-priced antepost favourite makes sense and this is one of those events. On his last visit to China, Bubba Watson won the prestigious HSBC Champions and assuming he is over his Masters disappointment, he can outclass this field.
Genzon’s wide fairways will give him plenty of freedom to cut loose from the tee and he rates a solid bet at 6/1.
Alexander Levy has had a poor season so far, but he should be feeling refreshed after three weeks off and the return to Chinese soil will suit him. He was second in the BMW Masters in Shanghai just five months ago and last year won the China Open on this course, at the first attempt, a victory that included a spectacular second round 62. After becoming the youngest Frenchman to record multiple Tour victories in the same season last year, he’s one of the rising stars of European golf and a player who could be lucrative to follow this year. Back him at 28/1.
The final name to add to your shortlist is another young improver, Tommy Fleetwood. His top-twenty finish in Morocco was his best result of the year so far and he can build on that at a course where he finished second behind Levy in last year’s China Open. He has plenty of potential and is worth a look at 28/1 this week.