James Morrison is David John's headline pick for this week's Shenzhen International golf in China.
Bubba Watson likes a game of golf in China and he is in the field for this week’s Shenzhen International as the European Tour heads to the Far East for the first of back-to-back events.
Watson is a past winner in the country too having landed the WGC-HSBC Champions in 2014 and has also done reasonably well around Genzon GC with a top 30 two years ago which improved to a top 10 in 2016.
Mercurial and frustrating for punters in equal measures, the left-hander has been more miss than hit in the early part of 2017 and has not threatened the top end of a leaderboard in a host of events he does enjoy.
A reasonable run at the Dell Technologies Match Play was an improvement but followed by a moody effort in the Masters as the dual champion failed to cope with testing conditions and missed the cut.
A recent putting tip given to him from Jordan Spieth could help alleviate the situation but the fact he is an 18/1 chance in this company reflects this dip in form – he would be half the price if operating anywhere near his optimum level.
In-form English duo Tommy Fleetwood and Ross Fisher are slightly ahead of him in the betting with the former enjoying a real purple patch that has him second currently in the Race To Dubai after scooping a massive cheque for his runner-up finish at the WGC event in Mexico.
He has some eyecatching course form here to draw on too and it is no surprise to see him well backed in the build-up while Fisher enjoyed two very lucrative weeks in Mexico and Texas before a non-factor (T41) at Augusta National.
Both are obvious contenders but I am going to opt for compatriot James Morrison instead at a much bigger price.
He very nearly made the staking plan for the Trophee Hassan II last week in Morocco and was right in the hunt until a bizarre back nine on Saturday saw him play his closing seven holes of the round in eight over par and eventually sign for a 79.
I am inclined to conclude it was just a stretch of golf that a player goes through every now and again as he was bang on the money again the following day with a 68 on the way to a T13, albeit from well off the pace after his chance of winning had evaporated.
The 79 was a rare low point in what has been extremely good start to 2017 that has seen him not finish outside the top 25 (two top sixes) from six events to go with a solitary missed cut in Abu Dhabi.
He has played in both renewals of this tournament with a best of T38 last year while his record overall in China is reasonable enough but I think he has a very good chance here to improve on that considerably if continuing in current mood.
Morrison has two wins on the European Tour and both came at around this time of year so all in all, I think he is a decent price to give it a really good go at securing title number three.
Two other selections this week are both on offer at three figures although Mikko Ilonen’s price has already shortened from Monday’s generous opening show.
There is still some 100/1 on offer and his latest effort in Morroco hinted at better to come here around a course where he has some very good form.
It could have been a fair bit better too – he was within four shots of the lead at the Volvo China Open in 2014 going into the final round but hit the reverse gear and could only manage a closing 74 to drop down into a tie for eighth.
He then demonstrated his liking for this place again with a T13 in last year’s Shenzhen International and while his effort in Rabat would not immediately suggest a winning return to form, there was enough to suggest he could be a player here at a big price.
Ilonen got to the DP World Championship at the end of the 2016 season with a string of very consistent results and nothing better than a T10 but the Finn is generally a pretty good performer down the stretch when needed and worth a chance here to end a winless spell stretching back almost three years.
While Ilonen caught the eye last week, another player I have been watching closely is Portugal’s Ricardo Gouveia and I am keen to have him onside this time.
Similar to Ilonen, he has not made the biggest impact so far in 2017 but posted his best result so far in Morocco with a T19 where he recovered from an opening 75 to play the rest of the week in four under par.
He enjoyed an excellent first full season on the main tour in 2016 that saw him make it all the way to the DP World Championship with a handful of top 10s sprinkled in along the way, including a T3 at a red-hot Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa.
That performance alone suggests we are dealing with a very promising young talent so his rather modest start to the new year has come as a bit of a surprise with four missed cuts and a withdrawal after one round in India.
Gouveia’s effort last week looks a solid foundation to get things going in the right direction once more while a couple of really good efforts on the Challenge Tour at the nearby Foshan Open in 2014 and 2015 means he has both good memories and displayed an ability to handle conditions in this part of the world.
Posted at 1355 on 18/04/17.
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