Matthew Fitzpatrick ready to chop Hong Kong rivals down to size
Accurate Yorkshireman tackling perfect layout
Tournament starts 10.40pm Wednesday
Live on Sky Sports from 6am Thursday
Tommy Fleetwood, who has completed nine tournaments since the start of September, comprising 37 competitive rounds, was pipped for the Race to Dubai title on Sunday and could be forgiven for wanting some time with his feet up. The Hong Kong Open is on his schedule, though, and the potentially fatigued Southport man is a general 6-1.
Patrick Reed, who squandered another golden chance in Dubai on Sunday and is winless since the Masters, contests favouritism with Fleetwood and is equally unappealing. Sergio Garcia and Rafael Cabrera-Bello are more attractive options, but layers are not being overly generous with the Spanish duo either.
Palmer's top tip
Matthew Fitzpatrick 14-1
The Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling is made for the talents of Matthew Fitzpatrick and the prolific European Tour champion should take all the beating this week.
Fitzpatrick does not get enough credit for claiming a fifth European Tour triumph just a week after his 24th birthday. His Crans-sur-Sierre success in September brought up a quintet of titles for a player who has just completed only his fourth season on the circuit.
When Fitzpatrick gets a sniff of a trophy, he is deadly, and he is hungry for further silverware having had what he judges as a disappointing year. Failure to qualify for the Ryder Cup – and being snubbed for a wildcard pick – has provided a significant motivation for improvement and the accurate Sheffield lad may be more determined than other market principals.
Expect Fitzpatrick to look after himself in Fanling, put in the necessary work on the range and make sure he is in the Sunday shake-up. Last year, he was unable to do himself justice, competing in his fifth consecutive week of tournament golf, suffering a second-round 73 when his hectic schedule caught up with him. A share of 19th place was a decent effort in the circumstances.
A year later, Fitzpatrick is playing only his third event in a row, so is fresher for the fight, and something similar to his Hong Kong Open debut performance could be in the offing. Three years ago as a rookie, four rounds in the 60s meant a share of third place. His HKGC scoring average (eight rounds) is 68, which is excellent for a tight track where anything wayward is severely punished.
Fitzpatrick had Billy Foster caddying for him for the first time last week and his score improved as the week wore on. Rounds of 74, 72, 70, 69 meant 34th place in the DP World Tour Championship and indicated it did not take long for the pair of Yorkshiremen to gel. Foster is one of the best bagmen in the business and could take Fitzpatrick up a level if they continue together.
Added inspiration for Fitzpatrick came in the shape of fellow Sheffield man Danny Willett getting back to winnings ways in Dubai on Sunday. Fitzy was thrilled for his pal and could be doing some celebrating of his own a week later.
Jason Scrivener 33-1
Straight-hitting Australians have won the last two editions – Sam Brazel and Wade Ormsby – and the trend may continue this week courtesy of Jason Scrivener. The Perth man has played well at HKGC when much deeper in the world rankings and could make a huge impact this time having arrived with confidence.
Scrivener was third in 2015, his best performance of his rookie campaign, teeing up in Fanling as world number 448. A year later, as world number 262, he finished tenth, then he decided to skip the 2017 edition because it clashed with the Australian Open, which was being staged at a track he knows well – The Australian Club, where his coach Gary Barter is based.
There are no scheduling headaches this time and Scrivener can threaten a European Tour breakthrough. He won the NSW Open by six shots almost exactly a year ago and has found some bright autumn form again, finishing 23rd in the Turkish Airlines Open and 16th in the Nedbank Challenge. Six of his last eight events have yielded a top-25 finish and narrowly failing to qualify for Dubai may prove a blessing in disguise, freshening him up for a much greater opportunity.
Others to note
The accurate Spaniard won the European Tour Q School last week to regain his place on the circuit and could go well at a fancy price on a course which suits.
The defending champion adores this layout and some decent recent efforts, particularly 16th spot in the Nedbank, suggest he will make a stout defence.
The Thai youngster, sixth in the Panasonic Open on the Asian Tour last time out, possesses all the tools required to tame HKGC.
The precise Swede showed signs of late-season burnout when finishing last of 71 runners in the Nedbank, but 22nd in Dubai was respectable and HKGC suits him.
The Indian, like Kinhult, is perhaps tiring, which may explain some wildly inconsistent recent efforts. Two 80s in the HSBC were followed by a final-round 80 in Dubai on Sunday. Sharma would be a huge HKGC danger if fully fit and firing.
The accurate Wolverhampton man has a fairway-finding ability which makes this title within his grasp and eighth place in the Nedbank was an encouraging recent spin.
4pts each-way 14-1 Paddy Power
2pts each-way 33-1 Sky Bet
Course Hong Kong Golf Club, Fanling, Hong Kong
Prize money €1.75m (€281,786 to the winner)
Length 6,700 yards
Course records – 72 holes 258 Ian Poulter (2010) 18 holes 60 Ian Poulter (2010)
Course winners taking part Padraig Harrington, Miguel Angel Jimenez (four times), Wen-tang Lin, Gregory Bourdy, Scott Hend, Sam Brazel, Wade Ormsby
When to bet By 10.40pm 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 D Willett (80-1), T2 P Reed (22-1), M Wallace (50-1), T4 J Rahm (12-1), D Burmester (100-1), A Otaegui (125-1)
Course overview For the 60th 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 Wade Ormsby edged a quartet of pursuers by a shot, despite a bogey at the final hole. Alexander Bjork had a golden chance, but bogeyed two of his final four holes to share runner-up honours with Julian Suri and Rafael Cabrera-Bello
Weather forecast Clear, pleasant and relatively calm for the first three days, before heavy showers on Sunday
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, Sam Brazel and Wade Ormsby 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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