Jamie Worsley kept up his good start at Betfred as he picked up three places last week. He’s back with six more picks here for the DP World Tour event, The Thailand Classic, as well as his usual in-depth preview.
Thailand Classic Tips
- 1.25pts Matthieu Pavon – each way (1/5 8 places) – 45/1
- 1pt Zander Lombard – each way (1/5 8 places) – 55/1
- 1pt Yannik Paul – each way (1/5 7 places) – 60/1
- 1pt Romain Langasque – each way (1/5 8 places) – 66/1
- 1pt Alejandro Del Rey – each way (1/5 7 places) – 100/1
- 0.75pts Oliver Hundeboll – each way (1/5 7 places) – 200/1
What a remarkable couple of months it’s been for South Africa’s Ockie Strydom. With a ten year career that had produced just one title on the Sunshine Tour, he now finds himself a two-time DP World Tour winner after an excellent come-from-behind victory in last week’s Singapore Classic.
There he shot a superb closing 63 – the lowest score anyone shot all week – to make up a four-shot final round deficit and take the title by one stroke to Finland’s Sami Valimaki. This in contrast to the way he won the Alfred Dunhill at the end of last year, as he entered the final round there in the lead and held on.
Able to win in such different ways, it really is a surprise we haven’t seen more of Strydom before now and it will be interesting to see where he goes from here.
Onto this week and we stay in the Far East for the Thailand Classic at Amata Springs Country Club.
It’s another new event on the schedule and the DPWT’s first visit to Thailand in over five years.
However, Amata Springs CC will not be new to some, as it has hosted plenty of events over the last 15-20 years:
– Royal Trophy (2006-2010) a Ryder Cup style event between Europe and Asia. Europe winning in ’06,’07 and ’10; Asia in ’09.
– Thailand Golf Championship (2011-2015) an Asian Tour event that saw Lee Westwood (x2), Sergio Garcia, Charl Schwartzel and Jamie Donaldson all win here.
– Asia/Pacific Amateur Championship (2012 &2022) one of the most prestigious amateur events in Asia. China’s Tianlang Guan (remember him?) winning in 2012 and highly rated Australian amateur Harrison Crowe winning late last year.
– Honda LPGA Thailand (2006) the first LPGA event in Thailand, won by Korea’s Hee-won Han.
What stands out in those past events is how low the scoring was. When Westwood won here in 2011, he shot -22; a score that was bettered by Charl Schwartzel the following year, who won by an incredible fourteen strokes on -25. Sergio Garcia equalled Westwood’s -22 in 2013 and following a wind-affected 2014, that saw Lee Westwood shoot -8 to win, Jamie Donaldson returned the event to its low scoring in 2015, winning with a score of -21.
The two Asia/Pacific Amateur Championships were won in -15 and -13 respectively, with the LPGA event won in -14.
It looks like, weather permitting, we have a birdie-fest on our hands.
The work of the Schmidt-Curley Design Team, Amata Springs CC opened in 2005 and is a lengthy par 72, stretching out to 7505 yards; consisting of 10x par 4s, 4x par 5s and 4x par 3s.
Holes are quite varied. There are four par 4s under 400 yards, though they are countered by a solid looking bunch of six at 460+. The par 5s are balanced between the 617 yard 7th and short 537 yard 11th, with a couple at a more average length to boot; whilst there are two par 3s above 200 yards, though the innocuous sounding 152 yard 17th is the most famous hole on the course, as players will hit an approach into a floating green surrounded by water.
It is a big, open course that has been constructed around two lakes that bring water into play on around eleven holes. The course layout is relatively flat, though fairways are wide and undulating; whilst the greens are predominantly large and heavily sloped.
Along with that water, the course is protected by well over one-hundred bunkers, though don’t look too penal; very much the theme around much of the course and unless we get some adverse weather, it’s safe to assume scores will be very low; with hot, humid conditions potentially offering the biggest challenge.
Again we’re going in a little blind this week and stats from last week’s Singapore Classic come with a note of caution in relation to their reliability.
From looking at the course and that low scoring in past editions we can draw some conclusions. The width of fairways around here and length of the course should very much favour the bigger hitters; whilst birdies are likely to be needed to be made by the bucket-load; with that a quality approach and/or putting week, along with that big hitting looks the best combo.
Birdie average may be informative, whilst those who score best on the par 5s should have the upper hand.
In addition, there looks to be the chance for some strong winds over the first couple of days, therefore I’m inclined to weight in a decent scrambling ability.
Key Stats: Driving Distance, SG: Approach, SG: Putting
Secondary Stats: Birdie Average, Par 5 Scoring, Scrambling
Another big, watery resort style course leads me to consider a similar set of courses to those mentioned last week in Singapore, whilst Singapore itself may well be the best way in as we have the added similarity of regional climate.
Events mentioned last week included the Abu Dhabi Championship, Portugal Masters and Dutch Open. All played on open courses that have typically suited bigger hitters; whilst I would also throw in the Czech Masters and Ras al Khaimah Classic, other events played on open course that usually favour those who can send it off the tee.
Additionally, I felt it noteworthy that a South African won last week; heat and humidity is often something that players have to contest with over there, similarly to these last two weeks in the Far East; thus general positive form in South African may well be a positive, as will any form in this part of the world.
Temperatures are set to be very high throughout the week (32F+ everyday) and with winds up to 15mph over the course of the first two rounds, it could play a little tougher over those days before easing off over the weekend.
We have a similar field to last week, though it has been bolstered by the arrival of former #1 amateur, Takumi Kanaya, who picked up an impressive win last week in a good field in Oman. Compatriot, Kazuki Higa is back on the DPWT this week too and they are joined by the Danish duo of Nicolai Hojgaard and Thorbjorn Olesen.
Daniel Gavins is also back in action following his win in the Middle East and Jamie Donaldson returns to the scene of his 2015 Thailand Golf Championship victory.
A strong, reasonably deep field for a regular DPWT event.
Nicolai Hojgaard heads the market at 16/1, closely followed by Jordan Smith and Robert MacIntyre at 18s. Any could play well, with the course looking to suit Hojgaard in particular, though with the huge priced winner we had last week, I’m not keen to go so high up the betting board with this test being another step into the relative unknown.
1.25pts Matthieu Pavon – each way (1/5 8 places)
I’m going to start down at around the 50/1 mark with France’s Matthieu Pavon. He’s been excellent the last couple of weeks, finishing 9th in Ras al Khaimah and 6th in Singapore; with his strong driving game and recent quality form with the putter and irons, he looks in a good place to put up another big performance at a similarly suitable course.
He made a solid start to the year, finishing 28th in the Abu Dhabi Championship, where the driver and putter compensated for a poor week with his irons. He couldn’t rectify this on his next start in the Dubai Desert Classic, missing the cut despite driving and putting well again.
However, two weeks ago in Ras al Khaimah, he finally found something in approach, ranking 2nd in the field and producing his best approach display since 2021, helping him to that 9th place finish. The irons were solid again last week, though this time it was the driver that went missing but I was encouraged by the quality of his short-game; which saw him to that 6th place finish.
He ranks top 25 on tour so far this season for par 5 scoring and when we throw in a 2nd place in Portugal in 2021, as well as his good record at Ras al Khaimah, where he’s finished 3rd and 9th, Pavon’s rich vein of form can finally turn into a much deserved first DPWT title this week.
1pt Zander Lombard – each way (1/5 8 places)
Zander Lombard has enjoyed an equally positive couple of weeks, finishing 2nd in Ras al Khaimah and then 6th last week in Singapore. As a big-hitter, who has recently found form with his irons and putter, he can go well again in Thailand.
Lombard was out of sorts on his first two starts of the season in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, though sprung into life in RAK. His 2nd place finish there came thanks to quality across the board, though he hit it particularly well, ranking top 10 off-the-tee and top 15 in approach.
Last week’s 6th in Singapore once again saw him hit the ball well and produce quality on the greens, the first time in years he’s produced such quality ball-striking performances in consecutive weeks.
He played here early in his career in 2015 and finished a solid 60th; performances at Ras al Khaimah, where he has a 3rd last year to go with his 2nd this year, and a top 5 in the Czech Masters offer encouragement; and as a South African, he’s more likely to handle this type of climate than many in the field.
1pt Yannik Paul – each way (1/5 7 places)
Yannik Paul had a good first year on the DPWT in 2022, collecting a trophy for his efforts at the end of the year in Mallorca Open. He started a little slowly this year but there were signs in his 34th place finish in Singapore last week that Paul is now getting up to speed.
Paul started his year with a missed cut in Abu Dhabi, before finishing 70th in the Dubai Desert Classic and then missing the cut again in the Ras al Khaimah Championship; with little in the way of positives to be found in his performances.
He made a step forward last week in Singapore, still struggling a little with the driver but found the type of approach performance that orchestrated his strong year last year, where we saw him rank as the 12th best iron player on the DPWT.
Paul was also a solid 44th off-the-tee, where he doesn’t lack for length; combined with ranking 12th in scrambling and 31st in par 5 scoring – if back to the type of form he showed last year, he should relish this test.
1pt Romain Langasque – each way (1/5 8 places)
After a strong start to the year, France’s Romain Langasque has underwhelmed a little on his next two starts but as a strong ball-striker who possesses plenty of power off-the-tee, can get back to form on this favourable setup.
Langasque kicked off the year with a 16th place finish in the Dubai Desert Classic, where every area of his game looked in good condition. Though we’ll have to forgive him a missed cut at Al Hamra in the RAK Championship and 63rd place finish in Singapore last week.
At his very best, he’s an excellent, long driver, capable of runs of high-class approach play and putting, whilst continually solid around the greens. A recipe for success just about anywhere and as he showed with a 9th at the MyGolfeLife Open and 8th in the British Masters last year, he’s capable of catching fire at any time, even following a poor sequence of results.
That 9th in the MyGolfeLife Open was the first of consecutive top 10s on wide open birdie-fest style course in South Africa, not dissimilar to this week’s test, whilst a good record in Abu Dhabi offers more encouragement.
If the classy Frenchman can once again burst back into form this week, he would be a serious danger around this setup.
1pt Alejandro Del Rey – each way (1/5 7 places)
We were on Spain’s Alejandro Del Rey two weeks ago in RAK. He finished a solid 28th there but nearly caused all kinds of frustration when going even better last week in Singapore, sitting tied for the lead heading into the final round there before succumbing to Ockie Strydom’s blistering final round to eventually finish 3rd.
Having said that, it was another positive performance for the talented youngster and with the immense length he possesses off the tee, this test should suit him just as much.
These first two events of the year continue a good start to life on the DPWT for Del Rey after finishing 30th and 23rd in the first two events of the South African swing at the end of last year.
He’s a strong ball-striker, as we’ve seen since he stepped up, whilst a ranking of 8th in driving distance makes him one off the biggest hitters on tour and certainly plays a part in helping him rank 26th in par 5 scoring. In addition to that we’ve seen much improved performances with the putter from him so far this year, indeed it was his best club in the bag last week – slightly outdoing the driver.
His win on the Challenge Tour last year in the Big Green Egg German Challenge came in a relatively low scoring affair on another lengthy course and as mentioned, last week may well offer the best comp course form; if able to repeat that level of performance, I’m hopeful that experience in contention will stand him in good stead here.
0.75pts Oliver Hundeboll – each way (1/5 7 places)
I finish with young Dane, Oliver Hundeboll (Jorgensen). He booked his place on the DPWT with a top 10 finish on the Road to Mallorca rankings on the Challenge Tour last year and has made a good start to life as a full member of the main tour.
Hundeboll’s top 10 finish there last season was in a large part thanks to his win in the Mangaung Open in South Africa – one of the events co-sanctioned between the Challenge Tour and Sunshine Tour – and he managed another three top 4 finishes following that; as well as an excellent 5th in the Hero Open when making a rare start on the DP World Tour.
There he looked a quality operator, ranking top 10 in approach and off-the-tee – with plenty of length – whilst also producing quality on the greens.
Jump forward to this year and Hundeboll has made a solid enough start, with 38th and 28th place finishes in the Abu Dhabi Championship and Ras al Khaimah Championship followed by missed cuts; looking good with the driver and putter but struggling to get his irons firing.
Those two solid efforts in the Middle East show his ability on this longer, more open setup, meanwhile that win in South Africa came on another lengthy course in a low scoring affair. If he can just find a little with the irons to compliment the way he’s been driving and putting, he can bounce back from his missed cut in Singapore.
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