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Monday, 10 December, 2018

Jazz ready to give bookmakers the blues

Thai youngster can be Hong Kong king

Jazz Janewattananond of Thailand in action
1 of 1

Play starts 10.40pm Wednesday
Live on Sky Sports from 6am Thursday

Palmer's top tip
Jazz Janewattananond 100-1

Just four days after completing the Race to Dubai in a thrilling DP World Tour Championship shootout, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia and others are teeing up in the Hong Kong Open for the opening event of the 2018 European Tour season.

A requirement to satisfy sponsors and an urge to pocket a healthy appearance fee are almost certainly the reasons why the stars of the European Tour are at Hong Kong Golf Club this week. Main promoters, UBS, have deep pockets.

A lack of desire for competition after a series of prestigious RTD Final Series events makes the market leaders unappealing at short prices. Energy levels must be low for a week when immense concentration is needed for 72 holes on a tight, fiddly, mentally demanding layout.

The course this week contrasts greatly with that which Fleetwood and co faced in Dubai. It is 1,000 yards shorter, with much thinner fairways and more tree trouble. The event looks ripe for an upset, and Jazz Janewattananond is nominated as the best value option.

Janewattananond is riding the crest of a wave having secured a European Tour card in remarkable fashion at Q-School last time out. The accurate Thai chipped in for eagle at the final hole of the six-round marathon in Spain to secure his playing rights by a shot.

Prior to those heroics, Jazz finished third in the Indonesia Open on the Asian Tour, and he has been playing well all year, working his way into the top 200 of the world rankings for the first time, improving technique and temperament with a 22nd birthday coming on Sunday.

Jazz won his maiden Asian Tour title in February – a four-shot success in the Bangladesh Open – and he followed up with a Mahasamutr Masters victory on the Mena Tour in May. The youngster has a taste for winning. He closed with a 64 for second spot in the Fiji International, a low-grade European Tour gathering, in August.

Three previous Hong Kong Open starts have yielded decent form figures considering his age – 41st, 24th and 60th with no round worse than 72 – and the layout plays to his strengths.

Next best
Alexander Bjork 80-1

Accuracy from tee to green is the key to success at this famous old track – one of the toughest driving challenges on the circuit – and Alexander Bjork can approach it with confidence. The Swede is one of the most precise operators on the European Tour.

Bjork enjoyed an excellent rookie campaign, having won promotion from the Challenge Tour last year, and the 11th top-20 finish of his season came in Dubai last week. He carded four rounds of par or better on an unsuitable track for a share of 17th. His best performance of the year was third spot in July in the French Open, another event, like Hong Kong, where accuracy is essential.

The 27-year-old has won on the Challenge Tour and looks good enough to claim silverware on the main circuit at a short, tight venue. Four rounds of 71 or better delivered 45th place in a decent Hong Kong debut 12 months ago.

Other selections
Wade Ormsby 80-1
Clement Sordet 100-1
Aaron Rai 66-1

Fanling is also perfect terrain for Wade Ormsby to showcase his straight hitting. The accurate Aussie demonstrated at Valderrama last time out that he is a force to be reckoned with on courses which put a premium on finding fairways. Fifth place in the Andalucia Masters secured his playing rights for this season.

Ormsby will be a threat if he brings that Spain form to Hong Kong – he played superbly in the final three rounds – and the recent Australian success in this tournament could continue. Ormsby, eighth in 2013, has been a Fanling regular only since 2012. It is unlikely he will ever drop the event from his schedule because it suits him so much. He won on the Asian Tour in 2013 and the 37-year-old could be ready for European Tour glory.

Course experience is obviously valuable, but two debutants who could take an immediate shine to the set-up are worth chancing. Challenge Tour graduates Clement Sordet and Aaron Rai are good enough to enter the equation on their first visit.

Sordet won his fourth Challenge Tour title last time out – the season-ending Grand Final in Oman – and looks a player of great promise having celebrated his 25th birthday just a month ago. The Frenchman, a top-20 finisher in his final five Challenge Tour events, has proven himself in Asia. He was second in the 2015 Thailand Golf Championship, where he jostled with Garcia, Lee Westwood, Bubba Watson and other big names, and has played well in China in the Foshan Open.

Rai has just completed his second full season on the Challenge Tour, in which he won three times. The 22-year-old Wolverhampton man is supremely accurate and should fall in love with Fanling. He finished eighth at Valderrama in his last European Tour outing.

Others to note
Matthew Fitzpatrick

The straight-hitting Sheffield lad is by far the most attractive of the market leaders on a track which is made for his talents, but this is his fifth consecutive week of competitive golf, so mental fatigue may set in.

Justin Rose

The Race to Dubai runner-up let a golden opportunity slip on Sunday, surrendering from the front with three back-nine bogeys. May be short of zest for Fanling. Former champion, but short price.

Tommy Fleetwood

The Race to Dubai winner gave everything he had in his quest to be European No. 1, playing in six of the last seven tournaments. Recently became a father and desperately needs a week off.

Sergio Garcia

The Spaniard is making his course debut and is experimenting with club changes in the wake of leaving TaylorMade. A far from ideal combination.

Phachara Khongwatmai

The 18-year-old Thai finished third in the Manila Masters on the Asian Tour last time out and appears to be developing into a star. Could prove a 150-1 dangerman.

Sam Brazel

The defending champion loves this layout and the Aussie grinder could be inspired to make a mockery of 200-1 quotes.

Staking plan
J Janewattananond
1pt each-way 100-1 general
A Bjork
1pt each-way 80-1 Sky Bet
W Ormsby
1pt each-way 80-1 SkyBet
C Sordet
0.5pt each-way 100-1 BoyleSports
A Rai
0.5pt each-way 66-1 Coral

Course Hong Kong Golf Club, Fanling, Hong Kong
Prize money €1.7m (€311,843 to the winner)
Length 6,710 yards
Par 70
Field 156
Course records – 72 holes 258 Ian Poulter (2010) 18 holes 60 Ian Poulter (2010)
Course winners taking part Miguel Angel Jimenez (four times), Wen-tang Lin, Gregory Bourdy, Scott Hend, Justin Rose, Sam Brazel
When to bet By 10.55pm Wednesday
Where to watch Live on Sky Sports from 6am Thursday
Time difference Hong Kong is eight hours ahead of the UK and Ireland

Last week – DP World Tour Championship 1 J Rahm (12-1), T2 S Lowry (30-1), K Aphibarnrat (55-1), T4 S Garcia (12-1), D Burmester (350-1), J Rose (7-1), D Frittelli (150-1)

Course overview For the 59th successive year, Hong Kong Golf Club will host the Hong Kong Open, which became a European Tour event in 2002. It also staged the 1990 Johnnie Walker Classic, which was won by Nick Faldo. This classic design demands accuracy from tee to green, with plenty of trouble waiting to penalise the errant. Any loose shots will find dense sets of trees, bunkers or one of the many small ponds and ditches which run through the layout. There is a sand-trap which is almost in the middle of the fairway 80 yards from the first hole and that dastardly hazard sets the tone for a tricky, fiddly little track which requires great control and excellent course management. There is only one par-five on each nine, with 12 par-fours making up the bulk of the design. The track has always been a test of accuracy over power

Story of last year Sam Brazel landed a maiden European Tour title, the accurate Aussie making a birdie at the final hole to edge Rafael Cabrera-Bello by a shot

Weather forecast Cloudy and cool for the first two days, warming up at the weekend, with light breezes throughout

Type of player suited to challenge The Hong Kong Open honours board confirms that the short, tight track plays into the hands of accurate players who combine straight hitting with a tidy week on the greens. Miguel Angel Jimenez (four times), Colin Montgomerie, Jose Manuel Lara, Gregory Bourdy, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Sam Brazel are recent Fanling winners who have all based careers on precision play. Nick Faldo, the archetypal straight man, won the first significant event played at this venue. Scott Hend was very much the exception to the rule in 2014

Key attribute Accuracy

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Janewattananond is riding the crest of a wave having secured a European Tour card in remarkable fashion at Q-School last time out
E.W. Terms
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