With the great and the good of the European Tour headed once again for the Greg Norman’s Earth Course in Dubai for the end of season bash we preview just who might be heading home with the lions share of the €8 million bonanza on offer.
Ian Poulter 14/1
The average winning score on the Earth Course over the three stagings of the event has been 18 under. With undulating bermuda greens well within the scope of the field, the real key here is Greens In Regulation. Enter Ian Poulter, third in the GIR stats over the season and with a game designed to feature here. Fourth in Lake Malaren a few weeks back and the winner at the WGC HSBC Champions in Shenzen all augur well for a tilt on a similar course this week.
After tying ninth here in 2009, Poults battled Robert Karlsson all the way in 2010, just losing out in a playoff. Surely has big chances this week.
Peter Hanson 20/1
Peter Hanson is responsible for each of the season highlights and lowlights for me. After the pain of being inexplicably benched by Captain Olazabal on the Saturday of the Ryder Cup, Hanson played the shot of the season on his way to winning the BMW Masters. From what can only be described as a gynaelogical lie plugged deep in the grassy lip of a greenside bunker, Hanson played an impossibly wonderful shot to set up victory. That was the big Swede’s second win of the season after the KLM Open in September. And even more impressively, Peter’s six top 10’s besides have included the Masters, the US PGA and two WGC events.
Here at Jumeirah Estates, Hanson tied 9th in 2009 and tied 13th in 2010 before his best finish of fourth last season. He lead after a 64 in round one but rounds of 72 and 71 left him two much to do to catch eventual winner Alvaro Quiros, who incidentally didn’t make the field this season. Hanson is my nap of the week.
Lee Westwood 14/1
If every player is a gamble and there are no guarantees, then Lee Westwood’s case is that little bit more complex. For me it’s quite simple with Lee, if he putts well for four days, he wins or podiums, if not he doesn’t. It seems right now that stringing four solid rounds together is a problem; a round in the 60’s is followed next day by one in the 70’s. For instance a 61 recently in Shenzen was followed by a 72 to drop him to sixth at the WGC HSBC Champions.
There’s no doubting that Lee remains a big threat though after top fives at the Barclays and BMW Championship (2nd) to end the PGA Tour season. Cruised to a six shot win here in 2009 and tied third the following season before a forgettable appearance last year. The question is can Westwood find his game this week? I believe from 14/1, it’s worth an each way flutter that he can.
Louis Oosthuizen 10/1
Regular readers will see no surprise in my tipping Louis Oosthuizen this week. If Poults is good at hitting greens, then Louis is the undisputed champion of the world in a category that is vital to contend here. Arrives rested after a three week stint in Asia where he was never outside the top six and indeed almost won in Singapore, narrowly missing out in a playoff to Matteo Manassero.
Played well here last year to finish sixth after a slow start. If Louis can get a first round 68 or better under his belt this week, he certainly has the game and the form to win.
Best Of The Rest
This is where the fun starts for the long odds glory seekers!
Shane Lowry has a magical golf game that is working so well of late that he has to be considered great each way value from 50/1. Following his win at the Portugal Masters, Shane can go out there this week relaxed after a holiday in the area with his best mates and just shoot for the stars. Tied for eighth last year on his first visit and finished second in the greens in regulation stats for the week. I wish him all the best.
Chris Wood 50/1 is enjoying a great end to his season after top 10’s in Singapore and Hong Kong where he produced a final round 63, his best of the season. His twitter followers will know that Chris has really put in a huge amount of work on his game of late, so it’s great to see it paying dividends. If confidence flowed like oil around Dubai, there will be nobody with more of it coursing through their veins than Chris this week.
Over the 100/1 bracket, the one name that jumps out at me is Joost Luiten at 125/1. He’s been in or around the top 30 in each of his last three events and so close to having a big week. Take his last appearance in Singapore for instance; Joost finished tied 29th on one under after shooting a 76 on Sunday. Had he shot a 68 in round four, like he did in rounds two and three, he would have tied fourth. So there’s really very little between being an also ran and in the big money. Add into the mix that Luiten won the Iskander Johor Open this time last year and my belief in the 365 day form cycle and you just never know!!!!
I rarely break the 10/1 rule in these tipping previews but you should be aware of the bookies favourites. Rory starts at 11/2 (87.7% chance statistically) but I feel the season is starting to take it’s toll on the great man, he really needs a rest. Luke Donald is 9/1 (84.6% chance statistically) and brings, as always form into the event, winning in Japan last week after two top threes at the Tour Championship and the BMW Masters. Donald was sublime here last year, steaming through the field after the poor opening round of 72 to climb into third.
Length: 7675 yards
Greens: Tifeagle Bermuda grass, 2.5mm, stimp 12'
Fairways and rough: Bermuda grass overseeded with Rye
Rough height: semi 40mm, rough 70mm
Generally wide fairways, 102 bunkers, 20 lakes and two meandering streams.
Previous Top 10’s
1QUIROS AlvaroESP-1968647067269€ 922,645
2LAWRIE PaulSCO-1765736667271€ 615,094
3DONALD LukeENG-1672686666272€ 359,832
4HANSON PeterSWE-1464727167274€ 276,794
5SCHWARTZEL CharlRSA-1369716867275€ 221,435
6MOLINARI FrancescoITA-1271686869276€ 170,291
6OOSTHUIZEN LouisRSA-1272676671276€ 170,291
8LOWRY ShaneIRL-1169706870277€ 143,933
8ROCK RobertENG-1168697169277€ 143,933
10LARRAZÁBAL PabloESP-1071687069278€ 127,325
1KARLSSON RobertSWE-1465756767274€ 910,349
2POULTER IanENG-1469666970274€ 606,897
3QUIROS AlvaroESP-1372676967275€ 314,070
3WESTWOOD LeeENG-1369677168275€ 314,070
5MCILROY RoryNIR-1271726667276€ 218,484
6CASEY PaulENG-1170677169277€ 168,021
6MOLINARI FrancescoITA-1171676871277€ 168,021
8JAIDEE ThongchaiTHA-968696973279€ 147,477
9DONALD LukeENG-874676970280€ 131,090
9NOH Seung-yulKOR-866737467280€ 131,090
1WESTWOOD LeeENG-2366696664265€ 830,675
2McGOWAN RossENG-1771666668271€ 553,781
3MCILROY RoryNIR-1568696967273€ 323,963
4HARRINGTON PadraigIRL-1468696968274€ 224,282
4OGILVY GeoffAUS-1470696867274€ 224,282
6NOREN AlexanderSWE-1370696769275€ 162,095
7GARCIA SergioESP-1271676969276€ 139,553
7SCOTT AdamAUS-1268736768276€ 139,553
9HANSON PeterSWE-1072716669278€ 114,633
9JIMÉNEZ Miguel AngelESP-1072686969278€ 114,633
9POULTER IanENG-1071746865278€ 114,633