Top-10 value with Thai veteran
Ben Coley previews the Thailand Golf Championship and fancies a local player to prove competitive without winning.
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The Thailand Golf Championship, played at one of Asia's finest courses in Amata Spring, is a very difficult tournament to get to grips with.
While it should prove quite straightforward to list all possible winners without reaching double-figures, picking which one of the elite players will walk off with the title on their final appearance of 2013 is extremely difficult.
Henrik Stenson is running on fumes, he's said so himself. But he still managed to place in good company last week and he's played well here before.
Charl Schwartzel romped to an 11-shot victory here last season having previously chased home Lee Westwood in 2011, so I'd favour him over Stenson. But is he a steal at 5/1? I don't think so.
Then you've got Sergio Garcia, who was fourth last year and catches the eye having finished fourth and second in his last two starts, most recently with a final-round charge on Sunday in which he looked at his magnificent best.
But we have to remember that last year's fourth saw him finish no fewer than 13 shots adrift of Schwartzel. Thirteen shots is a heck of a long way and with Charl being the man with the recent winning form, too, I've come to the conclusion that 7/1 about Garcia isn't very generous.
Next it's Justin Rose, who played some of the best golf at Sun City last week if we forget his abject start to the event. He concedes course knowledge to those around him in the market but he'll play well, won't he?
Throw in Bubba Watson - another also-ran behind Charl last year - and his pal Rickie Fowler, here on a recommendation having finished second in Australia last time. Again, it's a second which needs putting into context because bar winner Adam Scott it was an extremely weak field.
I'd probably be quite comfortable drawing the line there. Hunter Mahan of course can't be ruled out but he was 20 shots off the lead here last year and played some uncharacteristically wayward shots last week in California, while for Bernd Wiesberger and Thongchai Jaidee I envisage one or two proving too good.
None of this is to say it's impossible to find value elsewhere but I have to believe a player can win, too, and I simply don't see one lurking anywhere. There's of course a temptation to chance Jazz Janewattananond at 125/1 in case he proves to be as good as they think he'll be, but this is probably a good year too soon. He surely can't go head-to-head with one of the favourites and win.
You could consider young Jazz - a Radiohead fan, by the way, for which he deserves great credit - in the first round leader market. He's flown the boxes several times in his fledgling career, after all. But then both Schwartzel and Westwood led from pillar to post in winning here and again, the first round leader will probably be a good deal more famous than the Thai youngster.
Indeed, maybe there's mileage in Schwartzel at 10/1. He's not been out of the top-five after any of the eight rounds he's played here and was fifth after day one in 2011 before leading the way last year. He's also been starting quickly of late and 10/1 is probably further away from his outright price than it ought to be.
But no, I can't bring myself to take 10/1 in the first-round leader market if only for fear of one bad swing or one sustained period of Mother Nature's wrath.
As you might've guessed, I don't fancy anyone strongly enough to part with serious money here. You can combine Schwartzel, Rose, Stenson and Garcia at about 4/5 if you shop around and for big-hitters that should work, or you can leave the tired Swede out and have about 11/8, but that option, while very solid, doesn't have me tempted enough.
However, 20/1 about Chawalit Plaphol finishing inside the top 10 looks pretty generous to me and I'll also take 50/1 that he finishes in the first five.
The 39-year-old Thai has plenty of experience at Amata Springs and was a gallant fourth here two years ago, and while the quality of attendee continues to improve he could still figure in the top dozen or so with a good week.
We can ignore his missed cut last year because his game was absolutely nowhere at the time - he'd missed the cut in his previous three starts too. This time around he arrives on the back of a tie for 12th in Hong Kong, which came courtesy of a momentum-building 66 to close out the event.
Plaphol has some winning form in Thailand too and he's putting superbly right now - as good as just about anyone in this field - so at the prices he's worth small interest bets to put his name in the mix.
For those interested he's 250/1 outright and 175s in the round-one leader market but, for reasons mentioned, I'm happy to ignore those this time in an event Schwartzel may well win once more.