Ben Coley has selections ranging from 25/1 to 250/1 for this week's AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, headlined by Zander Lombard.
In its brief history, the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open - aptly sponsored, given that it is tri-sanctioned by the Sunshine, Asian and European tours - has been dominated by the best players in shallow fields, a fact underlined by George Coetzee's play-off victory over Thorbjorn Olesen in the inaugural edition, one which took place in the spring.
Coetzee was succeeded by Jeunghun Wang, a promising youngster who had earned full European Tour membership with victory in the previous week's Trophee Hassan, before Dylan Frittelli doubled up for the year too, and closed in on the world's top 50, by seeing off Arjun Atwal. Granted, the latter would've demanded a different intro had he triumphed as the world number 874.
Last year's champion was somewhat more surprising, but subsequent events have shown Kurt Kitayama to be capable of proving himself world-class soon. His two-shot success here saw him enter the world's top 200 for the first time in his burgeoning career, and the American, just denied in the battle to be crowned rookie of the year come season's end, is now ranked 78.
Numbers, of course, are only part of the puzzle, but we have to acknowledge the possibility of a short-priced winner at Heritage this week. Thomas Pieters and Thomas Detry form a strong Belgian axis at the front of the betting, Coetzee deserves to be on their heels, and I've written enough times now about Romain Langasque and the heights he's expected to scale.
All of these are likely candidates, and by hook or by crook we saw last week the value of knowing how to win. He made awfully hard work of it, but Pablo Larrazabal's victory at Leopard Creek came at the chief expense of a clutch of players for whom victory would have been life-changing. For the Spaniard, it was an important step back up the ladder, but one he knew already he was capable of taking.
We're still waiting for ZANDER LOMBARD to prove himself up to the challenge, but the 24-year-old deserves another chance after his pursuit of first cost him, and us, as he racked up a triple-bogey eight at the final hole on Sunday.
Though I must confess to missing much of the action in the Alfred Dunhill, I was impressed to see Lombard fight against a slow start and a significant early draw bias to work his way into contention. He responded brilliantly to setbacks, the like of which everyone was enduring, and that three-birdie run from the 10th to the 13th on Sunday suggested once more that his turn is near.
As I wrote last week, he began the new season having ended the last one in superb form, chasing a top-20 finish in Turkey with a contending top-10 in the Nedbank Golf Challenge, where teeing off with the lead on both Saturday and Sunday will have done him the world of good.
It would be easy to interpret his final few holes at Leopard Creek as further evidence that he's not quite ready, but I disagree. He's been ready since doing very little wrong against an inspired Alvaro Quiros in a play-off for the Rocco Forte Open a couple of years ago, and this youngster with a textbook swing remains one to keep on-side in this sort of company.
I'm not concerned by a poor record in the event, as he only narrowly missed the cut on his sole start here at Heritage, which has been taking turns hosting (2015, 2017) along with Four Seasons (2016, 2018). Lombard showed in Sicily that he loves playing by the coast, and he's since backed that up with a couple of top-10 finishes in the Irish Open.
Back at the Nedbank, he spoke really well of an educational week which he felt could spur him on to immediate success. Those confident words looked for a while like they might prove bang on, and I expect him to again prove capable of drawing the positives from his third excellent display in succession.
Lombard should be among the most confident players stepping onto the tee this week and with concerns around the putting of Pieters, and Detry short enough at 12/1, it's the South African who gets top billing.
While giving Lombard a second chance was an easy decision to make, it wasn't the first - that was to go through a similar thought process relating to Brandon Stone, the gambled-on disappointment who is now out to 33/1 in a place.
Given that Stone was shorter than Lombard last week, as he deserved to be, it's tempting to suggest that bookmakers have overreacted. I certainly thought he played really well without any kind of reward in the first round, and once the chance to win had gone I'm not entirely surprised this fiery competitor went through the motions somewhat.
Second in Portugal having contended before that in France, Stone's overall form remains encouraging and it would be quite like the man who shot 60 to steal the Scottish Open to win one week late. He's left out under sufferance and with the admission that his place in the staking plan at Leopard Creek did revolve around his obvious love for that course.
Instead, and with no real statistical profile having emerged from the first two renewals here, I'm interested in a collection of French players who will feel right at home in Mauritius, where locals flit between English and French at the drop of a hat.
Several of the Gallic raiders have made the island their second home, including Langasque, who was third here in 2017 and is an ambassador for the venue.
He's hugely respected, but 20/1 gives very little away considering that he's not hit the frame since July, and I much prefer the next best thing in terms of promise emerging from France - ANTOINE ROZNER.
Twice a winner during the spring months of the 2019 Challenge Tour season, Rozner's form then tailed off a little, but that's not entirely surprising given that he'd locked up his card from an early stage.
It seems likely to me that he starts showcasing his full potential again now that things are serious, and to an extent he did so last week when a second-round 67 lifted him inside the cut line on the way to a solid share of 36th in South Africa.
That was his first start with a European Tour card in his hand, but Rozner picked up some experience earlier in the campaign in the KLM Open, where he finished 21st in an event won by Sergio Garcia, as well as when making the latter stages of the Belgian Knockout in May.
Already then we've seen that he's capable of taking the climb in grade in his stride, and a return to Mauritius gives him an ideal chance to make a big statement having been seventh here on an invite last season.
That was at Four Seasons, where he played beautifully in a closing 66 to bag an impressive top-10 finish, but in the hope that he can adapt to the move back to Heritage this talented youngster is chanced at 100/1.
Matthieu Pavon will do for many owing to an excellent record in the event, including when fifth here in 2017, but I prefer the more present claims of ADRIEN SADDIER at a similar price.
This straight-hitting type produced the performance of his life to finish fourth in Portugal in October, but it wasn't quite enough to keep his card. As such, off he went to Qualifying School, where it was not at all surprising to see him cruise through, finishing eighth to earn back his credentials.
On the back of those efforts he went on to finish 36th at Leopard Creek, again leaning on quality ball-striking, and ever since he played really nicely across the weekend of the Open de France, he's looked to be right back on track.
Saddier was once thought to be among the best French prospects around, he's certainly comfortable in Africa, and while again his form in this event doesn't look pretty, nor is it reason to overlook the strength of his play lately. Indeed he shot an opening 68 here in 2017, his sole visit, only to narrowly miss the cut. Better is expected this time.
Clement Sordet has bags of talent, too, and I'm not surprised to see the standout 175/1 snapped up. Like Benjamin Hebert before him, Sordet has proven to be prolific at Challenge Tour level, and perhaps 24th place last week is the precursor to another end-of-term title run, the like of which he produced in Thailand a few years back.
One way or another, expect a heavy French presence on the leaderboard. There were five in the top 20 last year and three in the top 10 in 2017. Backing a few of those who've shown they're good enough to contend in events like this seems a decent line of attack.
Italian duo Renato Paratore and Edoardo Molinari are respected - if they could play alternate shot, they'd take some beating here - while the market has cottoned on to Johannes Veerman a little more, but I'll end the staking plan with another South African prospect.
There are a few in here, and at the other end of the scale is back-to-form course ambassador Jaco Van Zyl, but I like the look of HENNIE DU PLESSIS at 250/1.
Last week's missed cut on home soil obviously doesn't represent ideal preparation for this, but Du Plessis was on track to comfortably make the weekend before a 5-5-5 finish on the front-nine saw him miss out by a shot.
At 23, the hope is he can dust himself down and get back on the bike, building on the round of 62 which saw him earn a place in this field via the open qualifier. That came on the back of 10th place behind Coetzee in the Vodacom Origins Final, while before that he returned to action with second place behind the reliable Jean Hugo in the Wild Coast Sun Challenge.
We've seen time and again that three-round form on the Sunshine Tour is short of what's required even at this tri-sanctioned level, but Du Plessis hits a lot of greens and has the look of a player capable of much better in time having been a very decent amateur.
A winner in Mauritius back then, perhaps significantly, he went on to shoot a second-round 67 here in 2017 before finishing a promising 13th in the Joburg Open. Two years further down the line, he's beginning to look ready to take another step up and is worth chancing at the odds.
Posted at 2120 GMT on 02/12/19.
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