Sordet looks tasty for new European Tour event in Oman
Magic Marcus Kinhult getting back to his best
Sky Sports Golf, 6.30am Thursday
Alexander Levy, one of the Frenchmen with the best chance of representing Europe in the Ryder Cup in Paris at the end of September, is 16-1 favourite for the Oman Open this week.
This new European Tour event at the Greg Norman-designed Al Mouj course sees the return to action of Shubhankar Sharma, the rising Indian star who won the Maybank Championship in fine style last time out. Sharma is a 20-1 chance for further glory on Sunday.
Palmer's top tip
Clement Sordet 70-1
Al Mouj Golf becomes a European Tour venue for the first time this week, but the ocean-side layout has hosted five recent Challenge Tour events, so plenty of graduates from the lower grade have an edge in Oman.
Clement Sordet is the most interesting runner of all, the stylish Frenchman having triumphed at Al Mouj just over three months ago. The 25-year-old's two-shot NBO Golf Classic Grand Final success was his fourth Challenge Tour victory and progression into a European Tour champion seems almost inevitable.
Sordet's ace at the eighth hole during his Grand Final glory was named Challenge Tour Shot of the Year and he is bursting with positive vibes about returning to such a happy hunting ground with a European Tour card in his pocket.
Sordet enjoyed much success at Texas Tech in his college days. His finest performance as a professional was arguably second place in the 2015 Thailand Golf Championship, where he was competing with Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Matt Fitzpatrick, Bubba Watson and others in a strong line-up.
Much of Sordet's best golf has come in Asia, including third place in the 2017 Ras Al Khaimah Challenge in the UAE. This is a potentially top-class player and a missed cut by a shot in the SA Open last time out does nothing to change that assessment.
Marcus Kinhult 66-1
Chasing home Sordet in that November Challenge Tour gathering at Al Mouj was Marcus Kinhult, a talented Swedish youngster who appears to have rediscovered his old swagger after a spell in the doldrums.
Kinhult, who finished alone in second place in the Grand Final, tied for 12th in the SA Open last time out, even outscoring a triumphant Chris Paisley over the weekend. The Kinhult who made a name for himself as an amateur when leading the 2015 Nordea Masters at the halfway stage seems to be back in business.
More Steve Palmer betting advice
Kinhult's best finish of a troubled 2016, when he suffered with equipment issues, was fourth place in the Ras Al Khaimah, and his only Al Mouj spin yielded four under-par rounds. He won the 2015 Lytham Trophy by eight shots, so the 21-year-old starlet can certainly handle the so-called 'Links of Oman'.
Romain Wattel 60-1
Sean Crocker 50-1
Lucas Bjerregaard 100-1
Julien Guerrier 140-1
Those with previous competitive experience of Al Mouj are preferred, but Romain Wattel and Sean Crocker are probably playing well enough to overcome the handicap of being debutants.
Wattel has performed strongly in the Middle East before – particularly with third place in the 2014 Dubai Desert Classic – and 11th spot in the Maybank Championship last time out was greatly encouraging. He putted superbly and made 23 birdies. After an overdue breakthrough in the KLM Open in September, a second European Tour title seems likely to follow fairly soon for the 27-year-old.
Crocker clearly possesses a remarkable ability to quickly adjust to new terrain. The Zimbabwe-born 21-year-old American had never seen Lake Karrinyup Country Club prior to last week, but he finished second in the 54-hole Perth Super 6 strokeplay competition, then lost a tight tussle to champion Kiradech Aphibarnrat in the quarter-final of the matchplay element.
Crocker has been overcoming his lack of experience all season. In five tournaments this term, his form figures are 16-7-6-MC-5, and the missed cut was by a single shot in Dubai. He turned pro in November, can count Garcia and Rory McIlroy as friends, and can have high hopes of joining them in the elite ranks after an explosive start to his career.
Lucas Bjerregaard launched his career at Al Mouj, recovering from an opening 76 to finish runner-up in the 2013 Oman Classic, carrying that form to the European Tour Q School a fortnight later and securing a card. His two missed cuts this year were both by a single shot and it is unlikely to take long for this sweet swinger to rediscover the game which made him a European Tour champion in September.
Julien Guerrier is also course-proven – he was third in 2016 – and two Challenge Tour victories last year have taken the Frenchman to a new level. Guerrier won the Amateur Championship in 2006 and will relish the links characteristics of Al Mouj.
Others to note
The Portuguese won the 2015 Grand Final in Oman, so could be inspired by his surroundings.
The Belgian youngster has started the season strongly and could threaten a European Tour breakthrough.
The four-time Challenge Tour champion was ninth and third in his only two previous Oman appearances.
The Swede, sixth in Dubai last month, finished seventh in the 2016 Grand Final in Oman.
The Korean, Qatar Masters champion last year, has started the year in solid form.
The Austrian youngster is full of potential and was 14th in the Grand Final in November.
1.5pts each-way 70-1 BetBright
1pt each-way 66-1 Coral
1pt each-way 60-1 Betfred
1pt each-way 50-1 Coral
0.5pt each-way 100-1 Coral
0.5pt each-way 140-1 bet365
Course Almouj Golf, Muscat, Oman
Prize money €1.43m (€275,827 to the winner)
Length 7,365 yards Par 72 Field 138
Course records – 72 holes 267 Bernd Ritthammer (2016) 18 holes 63 Alexander Bjork (2016), Gary King (2016)
Course winners taking part Ricardo Gouveia, Bernd Ritthammer, Clement Sordet
When to bet By 3am Thursday
Where to watch Live on Sky Sports Golf from 6.30am
Time difference Oman is four hours ahead of the UK and Ireland
Last week – Super Six 1 K Aphibarnrat (25-1), 2 J Nitties (200-1), 3 L Herbert (50-1), 4 S Horsfield (125-1)
Course overview This is a new tournament on the European Tour schedule, but the venue has been used on the Challenge Tour in the last five years.
The National Bank of Oman Golf Classic was the penultimate event on the Challenge Tour schedule in 2013 and 2014, before becoming the season-ending showpiece from 2015 to 2017. The Greg Norman-designed Al Mouj, opened in, 2012, staged all of the CT gatherings.
The track runs along stretch of pristine coastline, flanking the Indian Ocean, providing an oasis of lush green grass. It features numerous bunkers, water hazards and natural dunes, while players typically face a stiff breeze.
The exposed layout has Paspalum SeaDwarf grass throughout. The fairways are flat and wide, while the greens are large and undulating. There are two par-fives on each nine – the shortest is the 543-yard 12th and the longest is the 598-yard seventh.
Weather forecast Sunny with light breezes for the most part
Type of player suited to challenge The course has been labelled 'links-style' by its creators, but is too lush to fit perfectly with that description. Great touch will be required on and around the large, undulating greens.
Big-hitters with a strong short-game should flourish in what are expected to be easier than usual conditions. Those with previous course experience from the Challenge Tour can hit the ground running
Key attribute Touch
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