Scottish ace Gallacher best bet in European Tour finale
Injury problems are a thing of the past
Sky Sports 4, from 6am Thursday
Event starts 11pm Wednesday
Palmer's top tip
Stephen Gallacher 50-1
The final European Tour event of 2016 boasts Patrick Reed, Justin Rose and Danny Willett, but the Hong Kong Open value lies with resurgent Scottish ace Stephen Gallacher.
Just over two years ago, Gallacher was on a triumphant Ryder Cup team at Gleneagles, reward for winning the Dubai Desert Classic and becoming one of the most consistent performers on the European Tour. Injury problems have plagued him since, but full fitness has recently returned and the last couple of months have been greatly encouraging.
Gallacher tied for 12th in both the British Masters and the Portugal Masters, then jetted down under for his debut at Royal Pines last week and finished a creditable tenth in the Australian PGA Championship.
Swing changes to protect the troublesome tendon in Gallacher's left hand, which forced him under the knife, appear to have bedded in, meaning this class act can concentrate again on filling his trophy cabinet, starting at a Hong Kong venue that plays to his strengths.
Gallacher, a three-time European Tour champion and a seven-time runner-up, has banked more than €10m in prize money due to being one of the purest ball-strikers on the circuit. In only three of the last 15 seasons has he finished outside the top 20 of the European Tour greens in regulation stats. Hitting greens in the right number is the key to slaying Hong Kong Golf Club.
Accuracy from tee to green is demanded in Fanling and Gallacher is typically a master at plotting safe passage to the dancefloor. The dual-Dubai victor is proven in Asia – he was runner-up to Louis Oosthuizen in the 2012 Malaysian Open – and should get among the birdies on his fifth visit to Hong Kong.
Gallacher was 40th on his HKGC debut in 2002, then 47th on his return eight years later, probably paying for lack of experience at a track others knew much better. He tied for 35th the following year, then showed he had fully got to grips with the assignment when fourth in 2012, closing with an excellent round of 65.
This event has not been on Gallacher's schedule since, but he is back this year with a hunger for competition, revelling in being healthy again and a European Tour dangerman in his early 40s.
Soomin Lee 100-1
A courageous victory in the Shenzhen International in China at the end of April earned Soomin Lee a European Tour card and a place in the top 100 of the world rankings. He was second in the Maybank Championship Malaysia in February, another European Tour gathering in Asia.
It may pay to ignore Lee's disappointing form over the last six months – he has been making a succession of course debuts (19 of last 22 starts) in high-class fields and has understandably struggled. Back in Asia this week, on a track he knows and loves, expect much better.
Lee had never even won on the Asian Tour when he teed up in Fanling as a 22-year-old 12 months ago – two low-grade Korean Tour titles were all he had to his name – and he was making his European Tour debut. After a nervous level-par opening round, Lee moved up the gears. Nobody bettered his final-round 64 and he finished in third place.
Wade Ormsby 150-1
SSP Chawrasia 125-1
Course-comfort makes two other big-price outsiders worth following. Wade Ormsby enjoys layouts like HKGC because his career has been based on precision from tee to green. His lone Asian Tour victory came in 2013 at Delhi Golf Club, one of the tightest tracks in the world and bearing similarity to this week's challenge.
Ormsby will be making his sixth start at HKGC, where he was eighth in 2013 having been second after three rounds. A neck issue this term means he has not played much, but the 36-year-old is fit again and was fourth in the NSW Open in the middle of last month. A missed cut on the mark in last week's Aussie PGA has created a juicy price.
SSP Chawrasia is also licking his lips at this week's test. The Indian grinder, a three-time champion at Delhi Golf Club, says HKGC reminds him of his home course Royal Calcutta. This will be his 11th start in Fanling, where he was fifth in 2014. Last month, Chawrasia, a three-time European Tour winner, won his first tournament outside India – the Manila Masters – and the 38-year-old has never been more confident.
Jason Scrivener, third last year, and Marcus Fraser, who relishes this track, are a tempting pair of 80-1 Aussies, while the best bets at the top of the market are Ian Poulter, Thongchai Jaidee and Jeunghun Wang.
Poulter and Jaidee have terrific course-credentials, while Nedbank runner-up Wang is well capable of landing his third European Tour title of a superb rookie campaign. Early-birds have gobbled the value, though, and no bigger than 28-1 is left about any of this trio.
Defending champion Rose, who withdrew from last week's Hero World Challenge after 18 holes with back problems, looks vulnerable, while Willett, unimpressive for two months, cited a back issue of his own for missing the World Cup a couple of weeks ago. Reed has been rubbish since his Ryder Cup heroics.
2.5pts each-way 50-1 Betfred
1.5pt each-way 100-1 bet365, Ladbrokes
1pt each-way 150-1 Betfred, BoyleSports, Coral
1pt each-way 125-1 Betfred, Sky Bet
Course Hong Kong Golf Club, Fanling, Hong Kong.
Prize money €1.8m (€311,844 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 Simon Dyson, Padraig Harrington, Miguel Angel Jimenez (four times), Jose Manuel Lara, Wen-tang Lin, Gregory Bourdy, Ian Poulter, Scott Hend, Justin Rose.
Time difference Hong Kong is eight hours ahead of the UK and Ireland.
Last week – Alfred Dunhill Championship 1 B Stone (28-1), 2 R Sterne (25-1), 3 T Detry (125-1), T4 S Jamieson (80-1), G Storm (125-1), T Aiken (33-1), C Pigem (150-1), B Hebert (50-1), C Schwarztel (7-2).
Course overview For the 58th 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 been extended by only 11 yards this year and remains very much a test of accuracy over power.
Story of last year Justin Rose and Lucas Bjerregaard duelled for the title, separating themselves from the rest. The Dane double-bogeyed the 14th on Sunday to give the Englishman the upper hand, Rose eventually edging to victory by a shot.
Weather forecast Sunny and calm for all four days of competition.
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 and Justin Rose 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
Fifteen of the last 17 Hong Kong Opens have been won by a European.
Eight of the last 15 winners started 12-1 or shorter.
The last 12 winners ranked inside the top 12 for greens in regulation.