For this week’s European Tour preview, we’re at the Shenzen International, which boasts a very strong field. Bubba Watson makes his return to China, where he can let loose and just enjoy himself, and he’s joined by some of Europe’s best: Tommy Fleetwood, Bernd Wiesberger, Joost Luiten, Ross Fisher, George Coetzee, and Dean Burmester.
This week’s venue is Genzon Golf Club, which is a par-72 course that measures 7,145 yards. It’s open to low scores, as fairways are wide and there isn’t too much trouble for players off-the-tee. That may be one of the reasons Bubba continues to come back year after year. I’m going to look at results from the WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan International because the two courses were designed by the same course architect. There should be similarities. Genzon GC features four par-5s that are crucial for the players to take advantage of. Eagles and birdies are readily available, and the week’s leader in par-5 scoring will likely hoist the trophy on Sunday evening.
Course history is important because this track has been used for the past three seasons, and we’ve seen certain players perform well here each year. There’s also evidence showing certain players – especially some of the Asians – perform above expectation when playing on home soil. I will be digging into them more this week, as well as others who have played well in China over the years.
- Driving Distance
- Birdie or Better %
- Greens in Regulation %
- Course History
Let’s look at my favorite plays this week:
Tommy Fleetwood ($11,500) – Fleetwood is the man to beat this week. He MC at the Masters in his tournament debut, but he’s been in great form otherwise. He’s finished 19th and 3rd at this event in two appearances, and finished 2nd in the 2014 China Open here. After his recent win in Abu Dhabi, Fleetwood is brimming with confidence and poised to make a run towards the 2018 Ryder Cup team.
Ross Fisher ($11,300) – Fisher was also a minor disappointment at the Masters, but like Fleetwood, has been in strong form otherwise. He made a deep run in the WGC-Match Play after finishing 3rd at the WGC-Mexico Championship. Keeping that theme, Fisher finished 4th and 6th in the past two editions of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China. Not only does he rise in strong fields, but he loves playing in this part of the world. At this event, he’s finished 15th and 16th the past two seasons.
Alexander Levy ($9,500) – Levy fell to a mediocre 34th place finish last week in Morocco, but gave enough signs to back him this week in China. He won the 2014 China Open at Genzon GC, so he should have plenty of positive memories here. At this event, he’s posted two top-25 finishes, including a 4th. Something about China makes the Frenchman very comfortable, so I expect success this week.
Hao Tong Li ($9,300) – If a Chinese player is to win this week, look no further than Li. He nearly won here a couple of years ago, but lost to Kiradech Aphibarnrat in a playoff. That near victory lit a fire under Li. He’s won on home soil before, in the 2016 China Open. He continued that form with a 2nd at the Turkish Airlines Open and a 5th in the Maybank Malaysia. We’ve also seem him contend at the WGC-HSBC Champions, posting a 7th in 2015.
Jordan Smith ($8,600) – I’m going to continue riding the rookie until he wins (and thereafter), as he continues to post strong finishes. A great Sunday in Morocco gave Smitha nother top-10 finish (his 3rd of the season). He’s been very reliable for a rookie, and has shownt flashes of a player who will be a dominant force in years to come. This is his first trip to Genzon GC, but I think he’s playing well enough to content again.
Pablo Larrazabal ($8,200) – Larrazabal is a streaky player, but I loved what I saw (and what he said about his game) last week. The Spaniard finished 13th in Morocco and is excited about the trip to Genzon GC, where he’s made the cut two of three years. He was extremely moved and motivated by Sergio Garcia’s win at the Masters, and seems to be trending towards contention. This could be the perfect place for him to have a relaxing week full of birdies.
Nacho Elvira ($7,100) – Elvira disappointed everyone who backed him last week in Morocco, where he posted his fourth consecutive MC. He’s a talented player, and a bomber who should benefit from Genzon’s wide open fairways. Elvira won a Challenge Tour event here in 2013, and posted a top-10 finish at this event in 2016. He also played well at Genzon GC in the 2014 China Open, posting a 15th place finish. There’s plenty of sings of comfort for Elvira, who should be turning his poor form around soon.
Dylan Frittelli ($7,000) – No course history here for Frittelli, but you can’t overlook his recent form. In his last six starts, he’s finished 19th, 29th, 12th, 16th, 8th, and 2nd, and has been knocking on the door of a win for the past year. The South African bombs it off the tee, and makes plenty of birdies on par-5s. His biggest problem is accuracy, and he tends to post some big numbers. He’s young, but if he can control his game and emotions, I could see Frittelli contending here at Genzon.
Rikard Karlberg ($6,900) – This time of the year last season, Karlberg was the hottest player in Europe. He’s been fighting a nagging injury and some swing issues, but finally found something last week in Morocco. Karlberg snapped his MC streak with a 27th place finish, and looks to build on that this week at the Shenzen International. He’s been good in China, posting an 8th place finish here last season. He also made a run as the leader early in the 2016 WGC-HSBC Champions, before falling away to 19th place.
Lucas Bjerregaard ($6,800) – Bjerregaard is my darkhorse pick to win this week at the Shenzen International. The Danish bomber was near the lead halfway through last week’s Trophee Hassan, but faltered on the weekend. He has posted a 15th place finish here in 2015, and has an elite track record in Hong Kong and China. Bjerregaard bombs it off the tee, makes tons of birdies, and played great last week (minus a couple of holes). He’s the next young star on the European Tour, in my opinion.
Good luck this week!