The players make the short trip from Genzon GC to Topwin Golf and CC for this week’s Volvo China Open. Although this is a tournament full of history, the current venue was used for the first time last season. So we only have one year of course history to draw upon, and very few accurate stats from that event. Topwin Golf and CC is a 7,261-yard par-72, played extremely easy last season with a winning score of 22-under par. The par-5s are long, but scoreable. The course features rolling hills and undulating greens, and has water hazards on nearly every hole. Looking back at last season’s leaderboard, there were only a couple bombers near the top. Most of the top-10 were more accurate players: Richard Bland, David Lipsky, Hao-Tong Li, Fabrizio Zanotti, and Richie Ramsay. I’m going to look at who played well last week at the Shenzhen International, and also players who have strong records on Chinese soil. The last two installments of this event were won by Chinese players, so there’s a definite comfort playing in front of the home crowds.
1) Driving Accuracy
2) Birdie or Better %
3) Greens in Regulation %
4) Putting Average
Let’s look at my favorite plays this week:
Ross Fisher ($11,800) – Last week I was confident that Tommy Fleetwood would win (almost!) and I have the same feeling with Ross Fisher this week. He always plays well in this part of the world, with three top-5 finishes in the Asian WGCs recently. Fisher contended last week in Shenzhen before making bogey on the final hole to miss a playoff. He’s been rock solid this season, and is trending towards a win. He posted a mediocre finish here last season, but went 67-68 on Friday and Saturday. He should have plenty of confidence on a course that suits his game.
Jordan Smith ($10,2000) – I can copy and paste what I wrote about Smith last week, but this week he’s gotten a $1,600 price jump. He continues to make birdies, make putts, and post top-25s. In fact, the rookie has posted seven top-25 finishes already this season, including a 14th last week in Shenzen. You don’t typically see this kind of consistency from a rookie, but the Englishman seems to be the real deal. Smith will get a win soon, and I’m not hopping off the train. He led the field in putting last week at Shenzen, which he can hopefully carry over to Topwin.
Alexander Levy ($9,400) – Levy seems to play well everywhere he goes, and on a course that requires accuracy off-the-tee, I’m on board. Levy made a run into the top-10 last week at the Shenzhen International, and is a player who typically carries form for longer than a week. He loves playing in Asia, where he’s posted multiple top-10 finishes. Levy has been a birdie-making machine and I expect him to contend again this Sunday. In the course debut last season, he posted 70-67-68-72.
Thongchai Jaidee ($8,700) – Another Asian specialist, Jaidee has very quietly been in solid form. After an 8th place finish at the Shenzhen International last week, Jaidee has now posted five top-15 finishes in his past six starts. I never give him the credit he deserves, but he proved last season that he can still win on Tour. On a course that demands accuracy over distance, I expect Jaidee to make a run.
Pablo Larrazbal ($8,600) – It’s always a rollercoaster ride with the volatile Spaniard, but you have to ride the wave while he’s hot. For American golf fans, think of him as the European Tour version of Billy Horschel. He can win when he’s on, but he can miss the cut at any time. Larrazabal has posted 13th and 11th place finishes his past two events, including last week’s Shenzhen International. He finished 67-66 over the weekend at Genzon GC, and should carry that momentum to Topwin. He didn’t make the cut a year ago, but he’s playing lights right now. Larrazabal has played well in China in his career, with three top-10s at different venues in this event.
Peter Uihlein ($8,300) – A mediocre week at the Shenzen International gave Uihlein a ridiculous price discount this week. Regardless of his WD last season or his poor course fit, I won’t play a single lineup without him. He’s been in incredible form all season (even on the PGA Tour), and is knocking on the door for a win. Although he’s known for his distance off-the-tee and birdie making prowess, Uihlein has shown consistent iron play and putting over the past couple months. He’s played well in China before, and I expect him to threaten the top-10 again this week.
Dean Burmester ($7,800) – The South African has elevated his game this season, breaking through with a win a couple weeks ago. Beyond that, Burmester has been a top-20 machine and consistent birdie-maker, and he still doesn’t get the price he deserves. Like Uihlein, I can’t imagine playing many (or any) lineups without him. I hope the recent form people will see his poor finish last week and jump off, although that was just a single round (a Sunday 78). He was in contention most of Friday and Saturday. Burmester could lead the field in birdies this week, and I expect him to be in the top-10 by week’s end. He’s known for his distance, so the short par-4s and par-5s should be right up his alley.
James Morrison ($7,300) – Jimbo disappointed a bit last week as I backed him outright, but another top-30 finish doesn’t take me off the train. He’s been on fire lately, with 13th, 6th, and 4th place finishes before a 29th at the Shenzhen International. The Englishman seems to have found the form he lost last season, and he’s an elite talent. Morrison has played decently in China over the years, so there’s no reason to lose confidence yet.
Richard Bland ($7,000) – Bland was one of the best and most consistent players in Europe last season, before injury set him back. He’s finally back and healthy, and has strung together two decent finishes. He returns to Topwin where he finished 3rd last season, and the course definitely suits his game on paper. The English veteran is deadly accurate, putts well, and makes birdies. If he’s healthy, he’s a factor.
Matteo Manassero ($6,500) – This is quite frankly an egregious price for Manassero. He MC here a year ago, but has been in very solid form recently. He has two recent top-10 finishes, and a handful of consistent top-40 finishes beyond that. One thing that Manassero has been doing is making birdies…and bogeys. If he can eliminate the mistakes, a top-10 isn’t out of the question. Even if he makes the bogeys, he’s making enough birdies to easily hit value at this low price.
Good luck this week!