Free golf betting tips from Ben Coley for the NBO Oman Open

Golf
Andrew Johnston
Andrew Johnston

With an 80/1 winner and 200/1 place over the last two weeks, make sure you get Ben Coley's thoughts ahead of the European Tour's NBO Oman Open.

NBO Open Open recommended bets

1pt e.w. Soren Kjeldsen at 50/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

1pt e.w. Andrew Johnston at 50/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

1pt e.w. Romain Wattel at 66/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

1pt e.w. Matthieu Pavon at 50/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

1pt e.w. Ricardo Gouveia at 100/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

1pt e.w. Thomas Aiken at 150/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

For details of advised bookmakers and each-way terms, visit our transparent tipping record

There's some guesswork involved for all concerned as the European Tour makes its first appearance in Oman where Alex Levy rates a worthy favourite.

We are all used to seeing the Tour out in the Middle East, but the addition of the NBO Oman Open adds a new dimension as we're forced to assess the worth of Challenge Tour form and establish just how good a pointer words like 'wind' and 'links' will be at Al Mouj, a golf course only opened in 2012.

Designed by Greg Norman, this par 72 has hosted five tournaments on the second-tier tour, won in scores ranging from seven- to 21-under depending on how strong the wind blows off the Indian Ocean. With just one tree on the entire property, Norman's links-infused layout is certainly exposed to the elements but, at the time of writing, nothing more than a steady breeze is forecast.

Forced to guess, then, we might see something closer to Bernd Ritthammer's 21-under than Max Orrin's seven, although Sebastian Heisele describes Al Mouj as "very narrow" and there are enough accurate types to be found in old leaderboards here.

Those who have played the course competitively must be at some kind of advantage, especially anyone who did so just last November, but given its importance at the end of the Challenge Tour's Road To Oman, many who've thrived here have not had to come back and the regular visitors must have questions to answer when it comes to their ability to establish themselves in this grade.

Levy, of course, is a proven winner and as he goes about making the Ryder Cup side the old-fashioned way - that is, playing on the European Tour just about as often as possible - a week off since a modest outing in Malaysia is a big positive. Prior to that, he'd been a factor during the first half of this newly-splintered Middle East swing and anything like that sort of form makes him hard to keep out of the frame.

Shubhankar Sharma is the only other recent top-flight winner in this line-up, one who deserves respect even at a cramped 22/1 having won twice already this season, and if this is to be a low-scoring affair then he must have every chance. That said, the guesswork I've alluded to means taking such odds makes only limited appeal despite the favour he did for us in the Maybank Championship.

From what I can gather, there's enough pressure off the tee here to favour proven ball-strikers, especially on approach to big greens which are new to most, and that advantage will only increase should the wind pick up. As such, I'm keen to side with those suited by such conditions, with any coastal or Norman-inspired form certainly a boost as we tentatively embark on a list of selections at each-way prices.

Richie Ramsay is one likeable option, but at just a slightly bigger price I prefer the claims of the veteran Soren Kjeldsen.

The Dane sprang back to life after turning 40 a couple of years ago, demonstrating his suitability to an exposed test when a tenacious winner of the Irish Open at Royal County Down.

From that springboard he produced a Masters top-10 and while not quite in that form throughout the last 12 to 18 months, it should be noted that dating back to a PGA Tour top-20 last August, he's shot 72 or better in 35 rounds out of 36.

Kjelsen has a fine record in the Middle East, right back to the start of career when his first two top-10 finishes at this level both came in Qatar, an event which may prove the best pointer here given that Doha is also an exposed, links-style layout which often throws up a champion who goes well in the UK.

That's certainly true of Kjeldsen, who was ninth in the Scottish Open last summer as well as the Open Championship of 2016, and good past performances in both events held in Dubai plus the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship confirm that he should be comfortable returning to this part of the world.

He does need to step up a little on recent efforts, but form such as that 16th place in the Wyndham Championship and even 12th in the Nedbank makes him a player, while he was bang in the mix at halfway of the DP World Tour Championship hosted by the Norman-designed Earth Course.

Kjeldsen's terrific record in Spain also includes ninth at Norman's El Prat in 2015 and my hope is he can return to the form he showed that summer and make his mark in Oman.

Chris Wood is tempting for similar reasons, as a player who won the Qatar Masters and can find his form from nowhere, but the price is just about short enough to avoid taking a big chance on someone who has been out of sorts for some time now.

Instead, I'm willing to forgive his compatriot Andrew Johnston a bad week in Perth, where a nine in round one effectively ended his chance.

'Beef' had previously made an encouraging start to the year, showing up well in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and adding 27th in Malaysia before a late call-up to the World Super 6 in place of absentee Tyrrell Hatton.

Johnston would not have been properly prepared for his trip to Australia, where he was busy throughout the week with media obligations, and better can be expected at a course which might just play to his strengths.

Look through Johnston's form, and virtually all of it comes when ball-striking is absolutely the most important asset, such as when victorious at Valderrama, eighth and 27th in two editions of the Open, third in Switzerland, twice inside the top 30 at Wentworth and third in Qatar.

The latter in particular interests me and given that he's won in one-over and 19-under, I feel comfortable supporting him regardless of how the course plays.

Johnston spoke in Abu Dhabi of how he's rededicated himself this year and that makes him a big danger in events such as this. As with Thomas Bjorn, he celebrates his birthday on Sunday and perhaps he can give the Ryder Cup captain a little nudge by taking this title.

Eddie Pepperell seemed to suggest that he'd clicked on the range last week and would be a huge factor here if returning to the form he showed six months ago, while Callum Shinkwin is another who ticks the boxes both in terms of coastal form and proven ability in the Middle East.

However, with the French having done so well in this event on the Challenge Tour I'm going to side with Romain Wattel and Matthieu Pavon.

Wattel is another with form in the Qatar Masters, and given his back catalogue it was no great surprise that when his breakthrough victory came last season, it was in the KLM Open at The Dutch - another exposed track which produced a leaderboard packed with players comfortable in the wind.

A few weeks later, Wattel returned to action with 15th in the Alfred Dunhill Links to further showcase those links skills but what most interests me is his steadily progressive form to start 2018, with a missed cut in Abu Dhabi followed by 37th in Dubai and then 11th in Malaysia.

The latter came courtesy of a supreme tee-to-green performance, very much his forte, but Dubai saw him putt very well too so perhaps the pieces will fall together as they did in the Netherlands.

Wattel has placed at El Prat, he's got a third place in the Dubai Desert Classic to his name along with a couple of very decent efforts at the DP World Tour Championship, and any further improvement from his latest outing could make him a big player here.

Pavon also tied for 11th in Malaysia, closing with a round of 67, and that came after he'd disqualified himself from the Dubai Desert Classic having signed for an incorrect score in round three. It was a shame, as after a torrid front-nine on Saturday he'd come home like a train and perhaps that missed Sunday contributed towards a slow start in the Maybank Championship.

Last year, Pavon produced some outstanding golf to make it all the way to the DP World Tour Championship and he showed an immediate liking for the Earth Course as he finished 13th. To underline his rapid ascent, it was only a year earlier that he'd made his debut here at Al Mouj, finishing third having led after round one and never left the top five throughout the week.

The 25-year-old looks ready to get seriously competitive in this sort of field and looks the strongest candidate when it comes to making the most of past experience here, although not by much with Ricardo Gouveia worth chancing.

Victory here in 2015 was the culmination of a brilliant Challenge Tour campaign for the Portuguese, who only turned professional in 2014, and while it's been a slow burner at the top level so far he's certainly capable of taking the next step up the ladder.

Gouveia's form doesn't appear particularly strong but as an accurate type he's not all that well suited to the bombs-away affairs in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, although he was five-under through 16 on day one of the latter event before giving away all of those shots in two nightmare holes to finish.

To his credit, Gouveia responded with a second-round 69 to only just miss an exceptionally low cut and he'd also shown some positive signs in Abu Dhabi, enough to suggest that, like Sharma a fortnight ago, he could improve bundles for what looks to me to be a more suitable venue.

Certainly, his Challenge Tour form says that it is having also been ninth on debut a year prior to winning, and it's no surprise that he called Al Mouj "the best venue that we come to all year, the best course and the best set-up."

One other potential pointer is the fact that Gouveia is in fact a two-time winner on Norman layouts, having taken a section of second-stage Qualifying School at Lumine when still wet behind the ears in 2014.

Similar comments apply to Thomas Aiken, who has won titles at El Prat in Spain and one of two Norman courses in India, Jaypee Greens.

The South African certainly hasn't kicked on from those efforts back at the start of the decade, but still has a touch of class which he can put to use when it suits him, such as when fourth at no more than 50/1 in last year's Qatar Masters.

As mentioned already, I'm willing to speculate that Qatar offers a decent guide as to what to expect this week and if that's the case, Aiken has to be worth some loose change considering both his form there and that Norman record.

Granted, his recent efforts appear poor but he was in fact eighth at halfway in Dubai, while just before Christmas the South African sat second at the same stage in Hong Kong.

One of the most reliable finders of a fairway on the planet when at his best and a player who says he loves golf by the sea, Aiken is worth a speculative wager.

Thomas Aiken could take to this layout

Finally, to round up my notes, I thought Lasse Jensen was fairly interesting at 250/1 having played well twice this year, including in Dubai where he's certainly comfortable having been third there in 2017.

The Dane hasn't done a great deal at European Tour level but tends to pop up on exposed golf courses and has been in full control of his ball this season.

Sweden's Alex Bjork remains one to watch and went well at the Earth Course last year, Thomas Detry could pop up any week now and Matthias Schwab is brimming with talent, while Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano is a proven European Tour winner who would've been of great interest were there serious wind in the forecast.

Gonzo has two top-10 finishes to his name on the Web.com Tour this season, both under breezy conditions, and came through Qualifying School at Lumine late last year to earn back his playing rights over here.

Posted at 1955 GMT on 12/02/18.

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