Euro pair appeal in Durban
David John previews this week's Volvo Golf Champions and is keen on Julien Quesne and David Howell at attractive prices.
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The European Tour is back and after a rain-soaked week in Durban prior to Christmas, the forecast looks much more promising in the city this time for the Volvo Golf Champions.
Durban County Club in the shadows of the Moses Mabhida Stadium plays host once more as Louis Oosthuizen bids to repeat his success of 2013, and this beautiful, brilliant track at under 6,700 yards is a real gem.
Oosthuizen is part of a naturally strong home contingent despite the late withdrawal of Ernie Els with Branden Grace and market leader Charl Schwartzel sure to put up some stern resistance.
Of the trio, I would probably been keenest on Grace after some signs of form up the road at Mount Edgecombe in the Nelson Mandela Championship.
But 25/1 is just on the short side while 7/2 for Schwartzel basically means punters need him to take victory, something he could not manage in a similar limited-field event when strongly fancied at the Nedbank last month.
Oosthuizen is a bit of a risky proposition too having required treatment for a troublesome back problem and I am happy to take a watching brief this week until getting a better idea of how solid his fitness is at the moment.
So it is to the foreign contingent we look and two players at sporting prices - Julien Quesne and David Howell.
I think the former is quite generous all things considered and I would not be surprised if his game went up another notch or two this season following a win in Italy last September.
Quesne produced three birdies in his closing four holes to take the title that week in Turin but I was equally impressed with his effort the previous week at the KLM Open where he showed a pretty unflappable approach despite two bogeys and a double late on the final afternoon.
That did for his chance of taking the title but he kept his cool and that sort of attitude to go with proven winning form is sure to be an important asset down the road.
From a more technical stance, he seems to like these traditional-style courses with the twisting, undulating links at Zandvoort not a million miles away from this week's layout built on the sand dunes just inland from the Indian Ocean.
Quesne was T5 here 12 months ago and if you want any more form in Durban then he has also posted a top-10 in the weather-shortened Nelson Mandela at the back end of 2012.
I see no obvious reason why a break from playing on the European Tour since Dubai in mid-November should hold him up to any great extent in this day and age and I expect a positive start.
I like Howell as well at 70/1 with his self-belief restored after victory in the prestigious Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
He had spent plenty of years playing some pretty moderate golf and admitted quite candidly after taking the trophy in Scotland that he puts a lot into his game and if things aren't going well, it does have a pretty negative impact on him off the course as well.
But getting back amongst the winners again was a huge boost with his sights set on a potential Ryder Cup berth again such is the quality of his game when on song.
He is another player who seems more at home these days on a golf course that requires a bit of strategy rather than pure brute force and that means Howell should be in position to set up plenty of birdies.
He has a top-10 at the venue back in 2005 behind Tim Clark at the South African Airways Open while the current form is eye-catching as he played extremely well just prior to Christmas when going unbeaten for Europe against Asia in the Royal Trophy.
Thomas Bjorn and Miguel Angel Jimenez arrive on the back of recent wins but their respective prices are a reflection of that with in-form Jamie Donaldson also in a similar position.
So it is just two selections to start with before three top-drawer events in the Middle East really get the new year rolling.