Crunchsports.com's guide to the 2012 China Open at Binhai Lake Club in Tianjin province, courtesy of Bettingpro.com tipster Ross Aylward...
The Race to Dubai stays in the Far East this week and the Volvo China Open is being played at a brand new venue, the links-style Binhai Lake Club.
There's no course form to go on this week but it's pretty obvious that distance off the tee is going to be an advantage on a course which measures 7,667 yards in length. While four of the par-4s come in at less than 400 yards, the par-3s are all monsters in comparison and the four par-5s are in excess of 550 yards. To compensate somewhat the fairways are quite wide but that's just going to encourage the longer hitters even more and it's a fair bet the winner will be high up in the driving distance stats this week. Wind is also expected to be a factor on this exposed track so previous form on links courses must be factored in too.
Ian Poulter is making a rare start on the European Tour but has won in this part of the world before and most bookmakers have priced him up as favourite or joint favourite with Peter Hanson. Both played well at the Masters recently - seventh and tied-third respectively - and they will be looking to carry that form on here. Last year's winner Nicolas Colsaerts is back to defend his crown and he's a 16/1 shot generally to do just that.
Francesco Molinari, Paul Lawrie and recent winner Thorbjorn Olesen come next in the betting and there's plenty of quality behind them in what is an above average field.
My Three Against the Field:-
There will be plenty of punters willing to take the short prices on Poulter and Hanson this week, but neither represent any value with Poults' lack of length and Hanson's struggles to convert winning chances the concern. If this was decided on driving distance alone, you'd have no hesitation in lumping on Belgian bomber Colsaerts but the distractions that come with defending might just derail him. Lawrie can't match his length, admittedly, but he's been hitting the ball further this season (292 yards on average) and is a fine player in the wind, so he's a good fit for this course. A winner of the windswept Qatar Masters back in February, he's held his form well since winning three matches at the WGC Matchplay and was bang in contention for three days at Augusta, before falling back into 24th place after a closing 76. It all adds up to another big week and the 28s on offer looks more than fair.
It was stellar wind play that helped launch this Englishman's professional career, with his share of fifth place in the Open Championship as an amateur being followed with a third 12 months later. That will come in handy this week and length off the tee will not be an issue either as he's currently lying 29th in the driving distance stats (297 yards on average). What's even more to like was the way he pushed Thorbjorn Olesen all the way to the line in Sicily last time, with his final round 64 bettered by no-one. That was a welcome return to form after a lull and the Bristolian could now be ready to post that elusive first win in conditions that will suit him down to the ground.
I was tempted to put up Woods' amateur pal and fellow bomber Danny Willett (55/1) as the final pick after his tie for third place in Malaysia this week, but the Frenchman's far superior price gives him the vote. He too lacks a win on his golfing CV but that didn't stop Colsaerts from breaking his duck in this event 12 months ago and few would dispute that the 21-year-old is a sure-fire future winner. Since joining the main Tour at the start of the 2011 season, he's been making steady progress and his seventh place in Malaysia was his second top-10 and sixth top-25 in his last 10 events. What's really to like about his chances this week is his driving as he's one of the longer hitters on Tour, coming in ahead of Woods at 28th in the distance stats, and that will count for plenty this week. Back him each-way in the outrights and in the 'Top-10 Finish' market, with that eventuality covering all our bets.