The first installment of European tour action in 2014 comes from Durban Country Club in the shape of the Volvo Golf Champions, and again it will largely be a watching brief, with no current form and only a smattering of course form to go on. There are a couple of O/R and top ten prices that catch the eye in particular.....
Durban Country club; Par 72; length: 6,689 yds
Key features: Undulating, beach side, links style course. Tree-lined with tight landing areas.
Notes: Very wet in the area. Course tests all aspects of your game. Likely to be windy.
Premium on: hitting fairways, especially with extra rainfall. Controlling ball flight. Strategic play.
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Nicspicks' man to beat: Charl Schwartzel
Likely to be backed in: Louis Oosthuizen 16/1, B Grace 25/1, D. Fichardt 80/1
Market #negatives: T. Bjorn 14/1, J. Donaldson 12/1 (markedly underpriced IMO)
Volvo Golf Champions Shortlist
MA Jimenez 20/1
Current form: 8-20-1; Course form: n/a
Key stats: (2013): 32nd in Stroke average; Driving accuracy 68.76%;
Other: Course right up the Spaniard's street. Keen to prove he still has what it takes.
Notes: Jimenez has now turned 50
Branden Grace 25/1
Course form: 21-7; Current form: 52-20-20-6 #progressive
Key stats: (2013): n/a
Other: Low ball flight will be of benefit round here. Looking to bounce back from poor season. Home advantage. Inflated price.
Peter Uihlein 33/1
Course form: n/a; Current form: 55-57-51-10
Key stats: (2013): Putts per round 29.15; GIR 68.78%;
Other: Proven what he can do in the wind with a win in Madeira, 2nd at the Dunhill Links and he also held the halfway lead at Carton House where I saw a lot of him live.
He said: “In college in Oklahoma it was quite windy all the time, so I quite enjoy the wind"
Julien Quesne 55/1
Course form: wd-5; Current form: 34-12-47
Key stats: (2013): GIR 70.72%
Other: 20th and 7th in last two links outings. Impressive win at the Italian Open.
Darren Fichardt 80/1
Course form: 5-61-1-mc-29; Current form: 15-21-37-mc-12-50
Key stats: (2013): putts per round: 28.07;
Other: Vast course knowledge. Returned to form at the Nedbank. Markedly overpriced in top ten market.
Michael Hoey 110/1
Course form: 52-mc-25; Current form: mc-wd-50
Key stats: (2013): n/a
Other: Links and wind specialist. Can turn it on from nowhere. Injury problems should be behind him.
Volvo Golf Champions finalised staking plan:
1u ew Branden Grace @ 25/1 (BV,Lads)
0.75u ew Julien Quesne @ 55/1 (BV,SJ)
2u D. Fichardt top ten @ 9/2 (Skybet)
2u M. Hoey top ten @ 6/1 (SJ)
Volvo golf Champions Potential Long odds #back-to-lays: M. Hoey, D. Fichardt S. Thornton - lay targets 12.0-16.0