After a third winner in 12 European Tour events so far this season courtesy of George Coetzee, don't miss Ben Coley's selections for the Indian Open.
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I'll be honest, there was very little about last year's Hero Indian Open that I found enjoyable.
Previous renewals had appealed to much that I do enjoy about golf and golf betting. Since the event became co-sanctioned between the Asian and European Tour, its home had been Delhi Golf Club, a short, narrow, firm course the like of which we seldom see on the sport's elite circuits. It was a throwback, almost unique on the calendar, and provided great entertainment to go with plentiful punting opportunities. Quickly, we knew just what type of player would thrive there.
Then last year, the event moved to DLF G&CC (official title), a course which made no appeal to me from the get go. It was monstrously long on the scorecard and caused unnecessary carnage throughout the week. Of the top six on the final leaderboard, only one - champion SSP Chawrasia - avoided a double bogey. There were in fact a ridiculous 15 doubles or worse from those who filled out the places.
Tough conditions are fine when they are fair, but these were not fair. Endless searches for lost balls appeal to no one, especially when they take place just a few yards off the fairway, and combined with long walks between tees it made for painstakingly slow golf. Some rounds took upwards of six hours and, with Chawrasia in possession of an unassailable lead from very early in the final one, there was little in the way of excitement.
That various professionals and several young locals were humiliated with scores of 80-plus made it worse. Paul Peterson, a very solid player at this level, started his final round with two birdies and shortly afterwards made a 10. Arjun Atwal, the first Indian player to so much as earn membership to the PGA Tour, signed off his tournament with an eight. Various burgeoning players ran up cricket scores as part of a bizarre spectacle, while the opportunity to showcase the fun of this game was wasted.
It's a great shame, because Chawrasia's story is a remarkable one and nothing should undermine his achievement in winning this event twice in succession. To do so on starkly contrasting courses is testament to one of the toughest competitors in the sport, one who is eclipsed off every tee box but boasts a mesmerising short game which can, under the right circumstances, keep him in the ball game, particularly so on home soil. Sponsors and officials owe him a huge debt of thanks for at least ensuring the tournament ended on a positive note.
Before last year's event, a title defence for SSP had all but been ruled out, because we were told that this course would play close to 7,700 yards - about a kilometre more than Delhi and surely out of the reach of one of the world's shortest-hitting touring professionals. Except that was not the case. Stacked tee boxes gave options to organisers and thank heavens they took them, enabling 100/1 Chawrasia to nudge and nurdle his way to what was ultimately a seven-shot demolition with just half a dozen more managing to defeat par.
Presumably, we'll see a similar set-up as any further toughening of this course would make for something quite hideous. In fact I would hope that with some sensible pin positions on some of the biggest sub-sectioned greens you'll see, scoring might improve a little thanks to some lessons learned, little in the way of wind prior to Sunday and what appears to be a reasonably strong field for the grade.
Heading the market are the two current forerunners of Indian golf, Shubhankar Sharma and Anirban Lahiri. The latter has laid out a path to the PGA Tour which Sharma will surely follow, having finished an outstanding ninth on his World Golf Championship debut last week on the back of two victories in what's his rookie campaign on the European Tour, and either could look a gift at 14/1 or thereabouts come Sunday.
At 21 years old, Sharma isn't concerned about the air miles he's been clocking up and the resulting jet lag, while Lahiri has been ticking over nicely at a higher level of late and felt he should've got a lot closer last year. Of the two, he would be given narrow preference as I do suspect last week's exertions might just take their toll on Sharma, who arrives on Tuesday afternoon and will be the focus of much attention.
Of course, a case can be made for Chawrasia, too. Not many players are sent off at 25/1 when bidding for a third consecutive victory in their national championship, especially when the margin of the second success was so wide. His recent form elsewhere is next to irrelevant and the opening 50/1 offered by bet365 was borderline sadistic. Chawrasia and Samcro double, anyone? Perhaps not.
Onwards and upwards, and to the best bet by my reckoning - Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee. Simply put, three-figure prices about one of the most decorated players in the field appear generous.
First and foremost, Jaidee has rediscovered his knack of finding fairways which has to be a decent starting point given who won this title last year. He ranked first for driving accuracy in both Qatar and Oman, this on the back of an encouraging display in Malaysia where he was inside the top 20 with 18 holes to play before a poor final round.
Sunday struggles have become something of a theme for the 48-year-old, which might suggest he's had his day, but I wouldn't give up on him just yet. In essence, he's played nicely enough in 2018 without quite putting the finishing touches to things and we saw in Switzerland last September that he's still a force on the right course.
We have to take on trust that DLF will suit (he's played well here on the very different Palmer layout), but those accuracy stats are encouraging as is his ability to grind out a score. Jaidee's last victory came at the devilishly difficult (yet very fair) Le Golf National, while he's won tournaments in four- and six-under on the European Tour and is probably at his best under demanding conditions these days.
He's won in India before, albeit way back in 2001, and in five starts here has made every cut. That victory was significant, being the one which helped Jaidee to his first Asian Tour Order of Merit, and the experience he's built up subsequently is a positive heading to a course Eddie Pepperell described as the work of someone 'sadistic'.
Even during a fairly humdrum 2017, Jaidee ranked inside the European Tour's top 30 scramblers and his game is similar to that of Chawrasia. I wouldn't go as far as to say they boast similar chances, but at four or even five times the price it's Jaidee who looks worth the risk on this occasion.
Speaking of players with a similar profile to last year's champion, there may be none more so than Adilson Da Silva and any three-figure prices should be taken.
This journeyman Brazilian is far from prolific but does have a dozen Sunshine Tour wins to his name and arrives in form, courtesy of 11th place in the Tshwane Open which followed 13th a fortnight earlier.
Da Silva is another short hitter who relies on accuracy to compete and that was in evidence last week, as he ranked third in fairways and second in greens, as well as a highly-encouraging second in scrambling.
It's no surprise, then, that he'd developed a good relationship with Delhi, where he was fourth behind Chawrasia two years ago, but there was also plenty to like about last year's 21st place at this course where he closed with a best-of-the-day 67.
Indeed his record in India is strong wherever he's teed it up. So far, 10 starts show nine cuts made, eight of which resulted in top-30 finishes, and his current level of form means this event arrives at just the right time.
Da Silva is seldom on the radar, and would be twice the price and more against the very same players in a different event, in a different place. But, as with Chawrasia, these circumstances look to bring out the best in him and there's every chance he can build on a promising few weeks.
It's worth noting that a handful of players in this field have the WGC-Match Play in their sights - Sharma, for instance, needs something in the region of a top-20 finish to qualify with Julian Suri and Oman winner Joost Luiten requiring only slightly more to steal their way into Texas.
In fact, the top five in the betting all have the same incentive with Chris Wood and Emiliano Grillo requiring victory for a spot in what could be a season-changing event and the latter is particularly interesting. Grillo is up there with Sharma among the most gifted players in this field and his eighth place in the Honda Classic last time, on a dangerous and demanding course, represents form strong enough to win this well.
With 13th place in the Avantha Masters here in India to his name, Grillo is the most appealing candidate at the head of the betting, ahead even of Lahiri, but I can't bring myself to get stuck in ahead of just our second look at this golf course. One bad swing and it could be curtains; at 20/1 that's just not a risk I want to take.
Back on an old favourite then and I was quite taken with Wade Ormsby's effort in the WGC-Mexico Championship last week.
The Australian, who secured a spot in that lucrative, world-class event thanks to his Race To Dubai ranking, responded to an opening 79 with three excellent rounds to climb to a respectable 50th. It could have been even better, too, but after all that hard work he played his final three holes in three-over par to throw away some hard-earned world ranking points.
Even so it was a performance which suggests his game is close - particularly as he led the field in fairways and putted well after losing a remarkable six strokes to the field on greens he hadn't seen before in the first round.
Prior to that, he'd only just missed out on a place in the knockout stages of the World Super 6 in Perth after a very bright start and the signs are that he's back on track following a dip in form which came on the coat-tails of his first European Tour win, something we so often see.
Ormsby was backed in from 100/1 to a general 66s for that success in the Hong Kong Open and is 66/1 again here, despite this appearing to be a slightly lower level, and as an Asian Tour regular we're not talking about a player to whom these conditions are alien.
Indeed, Ormsby's first professional win came in the Panasonic Open five years ago, an event played in India and one in which he's the only player in seven renewals to deny the home contingent.
This one has also been dominated by Indian players of late, but Ormsby is better equipped than most to upset the apple cart and as one of just three in this field to have won on the European Tour this season, the Aussie looks overpriced.
With three straight-hitting types on-side, I don't want to dismiss the idea that power could still prove hugely advantageous - it always is, when correctly harnessed, and there's at least a chance that conditions prove less penal than a year ago.
Besides which, with huge-hitting Spaniard Pep Angles producing one of his best performances at this level and Gavin Green the one who posed the biggest threat to Chawrasia, the 2017 leaderboard did hint that we weren't all completely wrong to pay extra attention to the bombers.
That brings Suri into the equation - for the fourth time this year, he did catch the eye in South Africa - along with Renato Paratore, who produced a final-round flourish to finish fourth in Qatar last time out. The Italian, who broke his duck last season and remains with huge potential, has two top-10 finishes to go with four missed cuts in 2018 and might be one to side with in-play.
Nacho Elvira still looks a player to keep a close eye on this year and finally showed something last time, but I'll elect for the more compelling claims of Sebastien Gros on this occasion.
This young Frenchman hits the ball a mile and showcased his talents just last week with fourth place in the Tshwane Open, where he led the field in greens and ranked second for driving distance as he powered through the pack over the weekend.
Gros had looked one to watch when winning a pair of tough Challenge Tour events in 2014 and while things haven't entirely gone to plan, he's on the up again after toughing it out at Q School late last year, climbing from outside the top 60 to inside the all-important top 25 over the concluding 54 holes.
Last week's effort followed on from some promise in Qatar and the ever-informative Richard Kaufman implied in commentary that Gros had spoken of how well he'd been playing all year, which raises hopes that he can back it up.
Gros was 20th in this event two years ago when sitting fifth through 54 holes so he's got some eye-catching form in India, and while last year's effort was little to write home about he at least made the cut when in no kind of form. Those four rounds could prove invaluable on his return.
If Stephen Gallacher can avoid the big miss which crept into his game over the weekend in Qatar, he could be a key player here having shown more good signs than bad this year. The Scot has long been known as an outstanding ball-striker and his ability to avoid disaster, if on display, would prove massive.
However, I'm not sure fellow former Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari warrants being almost three-times the price so the Italian is preferred.
Molinari struck the ball pretty well to finish 11th here a year ago and we've seen evidence of his quality long-game again recently, both when 16th in Oman and down the field in Qatar.
There wouldn't need to be a great deal of improvement on the former effort to see Molinari get right in the mix and when he does that, as we saw in Morocco last year, he's still more than capable of finishing the job off.
His play-off victory over Paul Dunne in the Trophee Hassan came in nine-under and it's under tough conditions that he's most likely to thrive while his short game remains somewhat questionable.
Several players spoke last year of how tough a grind this course is, with every shot requiring maximum focus, and that plays into the hands of the elder Molinari brother who is probably playing a little better than his finishing positions suggest.
Others to mention include Andrew Dodt, former winner of the Avantha Masters and a player who started well in New Zealand last week, plus the highly promising Matthias Schwab, but it's another old hand for me with Marcel Siem completing the staking plan.
The German's love for a test was confirmed once more when he tweeted his delight at the demanding conditions of the Honda Classic a couple of weeks ago, and his career highlight came in the Open de France where he battled hard to beat Francesco Molinari by a single shot.
Things have been a struggle of late but he popped up with a run to the final in the Paul Lawrie Match Play last summer, with his four other top-15 finishes all coming on exposed layouts including in a tricky renewal of the Rocco Forte Open.
Conditions here should be right up his street, then, and 28th place last time was an encouraging return to form as he carded a second-round 66 which only two players in the field bettered.
Siem was also under-par early in the final round of this event last year, evidence of how close he came to a podium finish given how few players managed to do so, and he looks to be in better shape for this return.
His other four starts in India include second place to Jbe Kruger in the Avantha Masters and a small bet at prices in the region of 150/1 appeals in an event where it should pay to take a creative approach.
Posted at 2040 GMT on 05/03/18.