Yuta Sugiura
Yuta Sugiura

Ben Coley's golf betting tips: ISPS Handa Championship preview and best bets

Two potential stars from Japan are towards the head of the betting for the ISPS Handa Championship, but Ben Coley fancies another at much bigger odds.

Golf betting tips: ISPS Handa Championship

2pts e.w. Yannik Paul at 25/1 (Betfred, BoyleSports 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

2pts e.w. Sebastian Soderberg at 25/1 (Betfred, BoyleSports 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Matthias Schwab at 125/1 (BoyleSports 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Jason Scrivener at 125/1 (Paddy Power, Betfair 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

1pt e.w. Yuta Sugiura at 300/1 (Paddy Power, Betfair 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

0.5pt e.w. Ren Yonezawa at 400/1 (General 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

Sky Bet odds | Paddy Power | Betfair Sportsbook

The DP World Tour is back in action following one of its mini-breaks, which was extended by a week when the Korea Championship was sponsored by Genesis and moved to a late-October spot, seemingly now the place players hoping to keep their cards will have to go in order to do so.

For now we're in Japan for the ISPS Handa Championship and in some respects the timing could not be better, following Keita Nakajima's runaway victory in the Indian Open. That capped a difficult two weeks for this column, having been on Nakajima a week earlier when another of our selections lost a play-off at odds of 100/1, and goes down as a big opportunity missed.

Nakajima was also selected as the headline bet for this event last year at 40/1, eventually finishing 12th, and now returns having already been backed into less than half the price. That shouldn't surprise anybody. The former world amateur number one is on his way to the PGA Tour and a quick-fire double is well within his capabilities.

His compatriot, friend and young rival, Takumi Kanaya, won on the very same day as Nakajima to mark the beginning of the Japan Tour season, and convincingly, too. His record here at Taiheiyo Club's Gotemba Course is particularly strong, including a win when still an amateur, and if there was a certainty this week, it was that he too would be supported from an opening 25/1.

These are two quality youngsters in the sort of field DP World Tour fans have become accustomed to, and the only negatives are that marriage of odds and expectation. Nakajima stalled on Saturday a year ago while Kanaya did so on Sunday. Winning on home soil is something both have done but not yet at this level and I can avoid joining the rush.

I do though believe that the Japan Tour is strong and getting stronger so there are two other talented young players I want to side with, among whom YUTA SUGIURA makes particular appeal.

Here's a player of big potential, who was close to the top of the aforementioned World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR) when capturing first the Dunlop Phoenix Challenge, then the Dunlop Phoenix itself, towards the end of last year.

Sigiura beat Nakajima by three in the latter event, with Hideki Matsuyama and Brooks Koepka further back. He did so while still an amateur, electing to turn professional shortly afterwards having captured one of the very biggest events on his home circuit.

Taiga Semikawa, one of the other hot young Japanese talents (50/1 for this) and second alongside Nakajima, was pretty effusive in his praise of Sugiura, saying: "It's remarkable. I can relate to it to some extent. Sugiura had a much higher standing than I did since our student days.

"Despite my sudden ascent to the title of world amateur ranking first place last year, Sugiura had already established himself as a significantly superior player since his college days. His victory wasn't unexpected."

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That's pretty high praise and Sugiura deserved it, having joined the likes of Kanaya and Matsuyama on a list of just seven players to have won Japan Golf Tour events as amateurs.

Now, we have to acknowledge that Nakajima needed a little while to show what he could do outside of the JGTO and Kanaya too, but Sugiura looks a massive price to my eye based not only on his potential, but what he's already achieved.

Note that he's started the year encouragingly, finishing 34th in New Zealand, sitting fifth at halfway in an International Series event featuring the likes of Patrick Reed and Sergio Garcia (Sugiura eventually split the pair in 14th), and then marking his return to Japan with a final-round 62 in the opening event of the season.

That was enough for eighth place and while he'll need more to hit the money in this undeniably stronger field, I wouldn't want to be laying monster prices. For my money he's got as good a chance as Kazuma Kobori, the Japan-born New Zealander whose career so far has a similar look to it, but who is 70-125/1.

With so many of the classier players having been absent for a while, this could be a decent opportunity for the locals, and few have Sugiura's scope. He therefore rates a bet down to around 125/1.

The second one I'm interested in requires an even greater appetite for speculation, as REN YONEZAWA is a 400/1 shot (500s in a place at the time of writing) for a reason.

He struggled a little down in Australia and New Zealand to begin the year, missing all three cuts, but a return to Japan offered signs of a revival as he closed with a round of 66 to finish 35th.

Again, we're asking for a chunk of improvement but Yonezawa was a top-10 amateur a couple of years ago and finished runner-up three times in 2023, including in a particularly strong Casio World Open.

The main positives, however, can be found in his record on the Gotemba Course. Yonezawa played here three times as an amateur, finishing 13th, 25th and 18th, twice ranking third in ball-striking and generally looking like the putter let him down.

Approach play appears on what evidence we have to be his strength and that'll be important this week, so he's a speculative bet worth having down to 250/1, albeit with stakes kept to a minimum.

Without wishing to write an entire preview in reverse, my favourite outsider among the Europeans is MATTHIAS SCHWAB, available at three-figure prices.

We were on the Austrian when 26th in India last time and I'm surprised to be able to take almost double the odds at a course which should suit his neat and tidy game no less than that one did.

Accurate off the tee at his best, Schwab has been inside the top 25 in fairways hit in four of his last five starts, while his approach play numbers are encouraging. He's gained strokes throughout those five starts and is hitting plenty of greens once more.

Schwab does have some experience in Japan having been a solid 27th at the Olympic Games, while his record in China includes fourth place in a WGC and ninth at Fanling, a tree-lined course that would by no means look out of place in Japan.

Matthias Schwab can make home advantage count
Matthias Schwab

"Played solid and consistent, I’m taking away a lot of good things from this event," was his verdict last time and there's a definite sense that Schwab, still only 29, is very much heading in the right direction once more.

It was this time last year when he and Vincent Norrman contended for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and I can see him getting in the mix now that he's settled back into life on the DP World Tour, where he's good enough to win titles.

Favourite Christiaan Bezuidenhout's preparation has been virtually identical to last year, right down to the way he closed out the RBC Heritage. Shooting 65 on Sunday, and not having to come back on Monday, means he returns to Japan with his game in the sort of shape which could see him outclass them.

The trouble is he is shorter in the betting than when missing the cut last year and while Lucas Herbert completed the same journey before winning this title, I don't want to be backing a 14/1 shot who could be half asleep, and who hasn't won a tournament for more than three years regardless.

Bookmakers are perhaps taking more of a chance by attaching 50/1 quotes to the name of Antoine Rozner, whose form prior to the SDC Championship (MC) last time was excellent. It seems he was struck by illness there and said he'd 'need a few weeks to recover', which is why he's among those who might just need the run this time.

Hopefully, SEBASTIAN SODERBERG and YANNIK PAUL can both pick up where they left off in India more recently.

Although aesthetically very different, the Gotemba Course is certainly a real test, playing quite long for a par 70 and offering few genuine birdie chances. DLF might therefore be as good a form guide as we have.

I wrote prior to that event that Soderberg would've appealed but for his propensity to run up a big number or two, one of the few things I've got right lately as he made two eights in the first round, still somehow managing to break par.

Eventually staying on for second despite closing out with a bogey at the par-five 18th, Soderberg was making it five top-10 finishes in 10 starts and I remain of the view that his form is being underestimated a little.

Certainly, he's now established himself as one of the very best iron players on the DP World Tour and with signs of putting improvement in India, there's every chance he doubles his tally at some stage this season.

The fact we're at altitude (albeit not extreme) is a potential positive for a former winner in both Kenya and Switzerland and tough conditions are definitely in his favour, providing he can escape when those occasional mistakes that get magnified at DLF do arrive.

Soderberg practises in Thailand during the off-season and has some form in Asia – in fact was in the mix at halfway in this last year. Since then his game has gone up a notch and he rates arguably the most likely contender, with the ideal game for a ball-striking test where the second shot will be vital.

Paul is somewhat similar and he was sixth despite a misbehaving putter in last year's renewal, which came after he'd been runner-up in successive events.

Tenth place last time was a return to something like his best, his putting improving for the third start in succession, and we know by now that the accurate German wants a test of precision rather than power, one where par is valuable. That's why he's built up such a strong record at Le Golf National and it's upon a course like this that his second win ought to arrive.

Yannik Paul
Yannik Paul

Between him and Soderberg we're siding with two of the best five iron players in the field, who both hit plenty of fairways. That seems to me to be the way to go and it's that quality approach work which gives them the edge over Tom McKibbin, who remains a player I expect to win or go very close somewhere in the coming weeks and months.

Adrian Otaegui is another who fits the description and a good putting week would see him threaten, while Gavin Green's performance in India was certainly noted, but it's those at bigger prices who make up the rest of my shortlist.

Julien Guerrier is generally a little underrated for my money and his young compatriot Jeong Weon Ko is a big price for a talented youngster who was fifth last time. Of all the names mentioned bar those selected, he's the one who gave me most to think about, but I'm not sure this will quite be his course even if the forecast rain could help.

Lorenzo Scalise has made a lot of cuts and his best result came on an old-school course in Kenya, while Jacques Kruyswijk was 16th in this last year and, unlike many, should be sharp following some golf back home. He was third last time out and in seven starts so far this year has done very little wrong.

David Law also caught my eye when last in action and contended in this event last year, but it's JASON SCRIVENER who completes the staking plan.

Like Schwab, he is a longstanding maiden but he's started to play really well lately, finishing 17th in South Africa and then defying an opening 74 to take 29th in Singapore, climbing 70-odd places over the final three rounds.

His approach play looks particularly good and he's been an excellent putter down the years, so the step forward he took in that department last time out could be a clue that the pieces are soon to fall into place for an accurate player who can grind out pars.

His par-four stats are especially strong, placing him in the top fifth of the DP World Tour throughout the past three seasons, and while I'd be ever so slightly worried the course plays longer than he'd like, the positives significantly outweigh that potential negative.

Scrivener has missed only two cuts since last July, one in a Rolex Series event won by Rory McIlroy that he played after six weeks off and another on a windswept links course. His form looks rock-solid, underestimated by the market, and it wouldn't shock me were he to make it back-to-back Australian winners.

Posted at 1700 BST on 22/04/24

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