The first of the four European Tour events to be played in China on the 2015 schedule, is the inaugural Shenzhen International, which takes place this week at the Genzon Golf Club at Shenzhen in Southern China. The 7,145yd Par 72 course made its European Tour debut last year, when it hosted the 2014 Volvo China Open, and is noted for being a scenic tree lined parkland track, built around the Dragon Lake, with water in play on many of the holes.
Although we only have one previous piece of course form to help us this week, my initial thoughts, backed up by the final leaderboard, are that the big hitters have an advantage here, particularly if there isn’t much penal rough, as was the case last year. The winning score of 19 under by Alexander Levy, including a course record of 62, indicates this is a track where you can shoot low. Warm sunny conditions, with a sporty 10-15mph breeze, and a slight chance of a thunderstorm on Sunday is forecast.
The undoubted star attraction this week, is Bubba Watson, who is the only player in this decidedly average looking field to have played at Augusta last week (more of him later in the article). From a punting perspective, the 156 strong field can be quickly whittled down, as the field includes 54 home players, who without sounding too harsh, have no chance of winning this week. That still leaves us with a wide open betting heat, with only limited course form to help us, so small stakes are advised this week.
The nap this week goes to the course winner Alexander Levy, who broke his maiden tag in the 2014 Volvo Open at this track. The swashbuckling Frenchman certainly seems to have an affinity for this part of the world, as he was also beaten in a play off in the 2014 BMW Masters in Shanghai last year, and despite a slow start to the 2015 season, I expect a bold show on a course that obviously suits his ultra attacking style of play. He certainly does not lack confidence, so with such good vibes about the track, he represents solid each way value in this quality of field.
Despite a tame effort at Augusta last week, where he finished a never dangerous Tied 38th, I have to include the previously mentioned Bubba Watson in my staking plan this week. In the past, the surly American has made no secret of the fact that he did not really enjoy playing outside the States (he famously took a particular dislike to Paris!), but showed last year with his win in the high quality WGC-HSBC Champions in China, that he is perfectly capable winning at away fixtures. He will be well rewarded by the sponsors for pitching up this week, but if he is motivated, he is in a different league to this type of field. The price dangled by the layers is just tempting enough to warrant a bet in my opinion.
The final selection this week goes to the promising 22 year old Argentinian Emiliano Grillo, who has strongly hinted in the last couple of seasons that he may be the next golfing star to come out of Argentina. He has been in good form this year, with a Tied 5th in Qatar, and more recently a play off loss in the Puerto Rico Open on the PGA Tour. His solid Tied 24th place on his course debut in the 2014 Volvo China Open, where he was 2nd in Greens in Regulation(GIR), points to this great tee to green merchant having a major chance this week.