Fresh off an 80/1 winner, golf expert Ben Coley bids to crack the puzzle that is the ISPS Handa World Super 6 in Perth.
ISPS Handa Super 6 recommended bets
Please note: advised bets include match play; some bookmakers also offer 54-hole stroke play
See our tipping record for details of advised bookmakers and each-way terms
The brainchild of European Tour ideas man Keith Pelley and supported by his contemporaries from circuits in Asia and Australia, the ISPS Handa Super 6 proved a hit last year despite reservations in the run-up from those who like their golf traditional.
A play-off for places in the match play denouement certainly helped, but chief among the reasons to be cheerful was victory for Brett Rumford, the local favourite who demonstrated that there's hope in the quest to solve this unique riddle. Those who wrote the tournament off as a betting medium are entitled to maintain that position, but seeing Rumford dance his way to the title at a course he plays well whatever the format is bound to coax some back in.
Before going any further, it's probably wise to recap that format. There will be 36 holes of stroke play first of all, followed by a cut. Then, there will be another 18 holes of stroke play, after which the top 24 advance to a knockout match play competition. The top eight receive a bye to round two and are therefore four wins away from the title, with the rest having to win five head-to-head matches. Oh, and these matches are over six holes.
If it sounds complicated, remember we're talking about a sport in which there are 34 overarching rules, each with several sub-sections and amendments; one in which you can remove sand from your line if you're on the green but not if you're just off it; one in which you can be penalised for slow play if you're handicapped by being a 14-year-old from China playing in The Masters, but if you're a veteran US pro and want four minutes to lay up? No problem. In fact, go ahead and have another 10 seconds just to be sure.
In the grand scheme of golf and all its glory, the Super 6 is quirky rather than complicated. The basics here are the same: play well enough over the first three days to earn a place in the match play section, and then try to take down the man opposite. Yes, it's extremely volatile once we hit the knockout round, but the players know just as well as we do what they're signing up for.
Safe to say I'm more than willing to have a go and while one edition of the event can only give us so much to go on, a couple of things stand out.
Firstly, 11 of the last 16 were Australian, and basically every one of them had played well recently. Remarkably, five of them had finished inside the top six at the previous week's Vic Open, in which Rumford and Nick Cullen also went nicely to share 18th. Virtually every player who teed up in both events carried their good form over from the first to the second and that makes sense, when so many of the overseas raiders might be disadvantaged by competitive rust, jet lag, unfamiliarity with the course or any permutation of the three.
Secondly, the exceptions to this home dominance were, in terms of this event at least, pretty exceptional. Top-ranked Louis Oosthuizen made the quarter-finals and the other non-Australians to reach the last 16 were Hideto Tanihara, Austin Connelly, Phachara Khongwatmai and Johannes Veerman. Okay, the latter doesn't quite fit the term 'exceptional' yet but he did arrive on the back of a top-20 finish in the Maybank Championship, along with teen sensation Khongwatmai.
If we use these two filters - either some seriously good performances in Australia, or a high finish in Malaysia last week - it does help cut the field down to size. What's more, it's not a theory which is lacking for logic. There are a lot of European Tour players here who haven't been involved in tournament golf since December, and intimate knowledge of a course like Lake Karrinyup could once again prove invaluable. Much will be made of the need to make birdies over such a short format, but surely of equal importance is the need to avoid giving holes away on the cheap and the best way to do that is to know where not to go.
The man to beat is probably Jason Scrivener and, despite the risks attached, he's a tempting price at 25/1. Local to Perth and with course form figures of 19-28-15-3-4, latterly in this event last year, not even last week's missed cut can be considered a significant negative given his previous top-six finish in the Dubai Desert Classic.
Since losing at the semi-final stage here a year ago, Scrivener has won his first professional title courtesy of the New South Wales Open and, as that course record suggests, there must be every chance that he's one of the 24 left standing through 54 holes. And remember, if the supposed lottery of six-hole match play isn't your bag, most firms will offer a market on the 54-hole stroke play alone. For the record, Rumford won that last year, too.
Thorbjorn Olesen is a shade less likely to do what's required in the stroke play portion but would be a danger to all if advancing. The Dane won here in 2014, added the World Cup in Australia two years later, and paired up with Lucas Bjerregaard to land a similarly quirky event in the UK last year. As with Scrivener, his missed cut last week was by a narrow margin and Olesen did well to rally having been four-over through two holes at a course which doesn't play to his strengths.
My idea of the best bet, however, is the red-hot Lucas Herbert.
Once one of the very best amateurs in the world, Herbert has slowly started to demonstrated what he can do at this level. He was sixth behind Cameron Davis in the Australian Open late last year, holding his own for most of the final round when paired with Jason Day, and eighth place on his 2018 return behind Sergio Garcia in Singapore makes it four top-10 finishes in five.
In fact, you can make that five in six after he skipped last week's Oates Vic Open to take part in Qualifying School for the PGA Tour China Series, where he finished second and comfortably secured playing rights for the season ahead and, with them, a potential path to the highest level.
With his effort in Singapore good enough for an Open spot this summer, Herbert is thriving and that sets him up nicely for a return to an event in which he went down narrowly to beaten finalist Khongwatmai a year ago, when he arrived in a similarly rich vein of form and impressed to cruise through the stroke play round, beaten only by Rumford.
A player with effortless power, Hebert will be a huge threat to all if making the final stages and looks a big enough price at 50/1.
Slightly bigger in the market is Sean Crocker, the promising American I wrote about ahead of seventh place in the Australian PGA who has since booked an Open spot alongside Herbert with another top-10 behind stablemate Garcia.
Crocker missed the cut in Dubai last time which is off-putting, as is the fact he makes his tournament debut here, but he remains one to watch and could be worth getting on-side if showing a liking for the course on day one.
Lake Karrinyup is an undulating, attractive test which draws comparisons with the likes of Fanling and Wentworth and all sorts of other tree-lined tracks on the European Tour, but Rumford confessed a year ago that it had become a test of wedges as modern golf has evolved past it.
Rumford, of course, is one of the best in the business with wedge in hand so having made these comments before going on to win, there's no reason to doubt him. The difficulty is working out which of these players are deadly because, let's face it, there are players here we may never see swing a golf club.
However, Daisuke Kataoka certainly boasts a fine short-game as he demonstrated when tied for 18th in the Sony Open a month ago.
That's a fully-fledged PGA Tour event and Kataoka, playing there on an invite from the Japanese sponsors, shot four sub-70 rounds for a share of 18th alongside the likes of three-time major champion Jordan Spieth and rookie winner Austin Cook.
In other words, it's a cut above what many of these have so far proven capable of and he played well again last week to finish a shot outside the top 20 in Malaysia, where his accurate driving and dead-eye putting were in evidence, while if you go back to November he was 15th behind Justin Rose in the WGC-HSBC Champions.
Kataoka's approaches from inside 125 yards in the Sony and the HSBC Champions have been so accurate that he sits second in proximity from 50-125 yards on the PGA Tour at present. Of course, eight rounds only tell us so much, but in this case it's enough to support the idea that the diminutive 29-year-old makes his money by being sharp with wedges and putter in hand.
The Japanese actually sits two places ahead of Scrivener in the Official World Golf Rankings, and while that again does not paint the full picture, it does hint that 200/1 is generous. Indeed he's just one place behind fellow accurate-hitting 29-year-old Gaganjeet Bhullar, whose career so far appears to have followed a similar path. Bhullar is interesting, particularly if inspired by compatriot Shubhankar Sharma's win, but he's a third of the price.
There's clear guesswork involved here and Kataoka hasn't played in Australia before as far as I can tell, but if he can produce the golf which saw him secure a PGA Tour top-20 just a month ago, there's every hope he can shake up the more familiar names.
Ben Eccles closed with a round of 65 for fifth last week and rates an interesting contender having only been just shy of the top 24 last year, but at a bigger price I'd rather take a chance on the arguably more promising Minwoo Lee.
The only amateur in this field, Lee has more recent experience of Lake Karrinyup than most having shot 68 here in the Australian Amateur just last month. He finished third in the 36-hole stroke play portion played across two courses and while disappointed to lose in the match play, it was another decent effort from one of the world's best young players, who won the prestigious US Junior Amateur less than two years ago to follow in the footsteps of Spieth and idol Tiger Woods.
Lee missed the cut last week but only by two shots and after a nightmare opening 77, which he responded to with a second-round 69. He'll be more at home here, having been up there with Curtis Luck as one of the best players produced on the west coast of Australia for some time, and has shown what he can do with two very good efforts in his national open.
What's more, it can't hurt that his sister, the brilliant Minjee Lee, won the ladies' Vic Open last week to further egg on her younger brother, who appears sure to be winning titles even if this ultimately proves too much, too soon.
"My sister played great golf down the stretch and ended up winning by five shots so hopefully I can do that," said Lee.
"It's one of the biggest tournaments I've played and to get the opportunity to get a European Tour card if you win, it's pretty big so hopefully my ‘A game’ is on."
We had a 17-year-old finalist last year and another teen in the last 16, so perhaps golf's latest attempt to capture a younger audience can in fact produce a young champion and in Lee, there's a player here who certainly appears capable of graduating beyond this grade in time.
Matthias Schwab is another young man going places and is already a better player than some of the other Challenge Tour graduates who are quoted at a similar price, while the more experienced Nick Cullen likes it here and comes out well if you look at par-three stats, which is one potential angle for the match play as two of the six holes are indeed par-threes.
But instead, I'll round off a speculative preview with small bets on Stephen Jeffress and Simon Hawkes.
Starting with the latter, Hawkes climbed almost 1,500 places in golf's world rankings with his first victory last week, as he saw off one of the most promising young Australians, Harrison Endycott, to win the aforementioned Vic Open.
Given how good a guide it proved last year, having the champion on-side at as big as 250/1 makes some sense and with compatriot Nathan Green stating that his putting is so strong that he could "roll a Rubik's Cube", Hawkes might be able to ride the crest of a wave for another week.
His win was a shock, make no mistake, but Hawkes did come through Australian Q-School before starting 2018 with form figures of 25-1. Granted, we could've backed him at a bigger price in a considerably weaker event last week, but I'm not going to leave him alone for just that reason - we have new information to hand, and it suggests he could be worth a bet.
Finally, Jeffress lost to Scrivener in the quarter-finals last year and returns in great heart.
He finished third at the final stage of the Asian Tour's Qualifying School before confirming his return to form with fifth last week, and he's made the cut in all four starts at Lake Karrinyup.
This isn't a player who has ever looked likely to win on the European Tour, but this is no ordinary event and he wasn't at all far off a year ago when arriving in considerably poorer form.
Posted at 1935 GMT on 05/02/18.