BMW: Best bets
Dave Tindall looks at the leading contenders and top wagers for this week's BMW Masters in China.
By Dave Tindall
Last Updated: 23/10/12 2:05pm
The European Tour heads to the Far East this week for the BMW Masters in Shanghai - the first of a run of four events in Asia.
Just 78 golfers will be teeing-up on Thursday to take on the challenge of the Jack Nicklaus-designed Lake Malaren course (7,607-yard par 72) but they include 11 of Europe's victorious Ryder Cup team.
Opened less than two years ago, the venue is making its second appearance on the world stage, having hosted a 30-man event in the autumn of last year when Rory McIlroy emerged victorious.
This week's expanded tournament makes it on to the European Tour schedule for the first time, with $1.16m on offer for the eventual champion - out of a total prize fund of $7m.
The course is relatively flat with plenty of water.
The market leaders (Sky Bet odds):
Rory McIlroy (9/2): The world number one has a phenomenal record in the Far East, with an average finishing position of 3.38 in the last eight European Tour events he's played in Asia. He also shot 18-under to win on this week's course last year as highlighted in the intro. Forget his flop in the Turkey recently when he had one eye on the beach; McIlroy is clearly the man to beat despite the world-class field waiting to take him on.
Latest strokeplay form: 10-1-1-24
Course form: 1
China form: 1-4-6-5
World ranking: 1
Justin Rose (10/1): Rose produced some sparkling golf to win the Turkish Airlines World Golf event a fortnight ago, beating Tiger Woods in the semis and Lee Westwood in the final. Before that he was runner-up in the Tour Championship and won a crucial singles clash against Phil Mickelson in the Ryder Cup so the Englishman is finishing the campaign strongly. If his putting matches his tee-to-green play he should go very close.
Latest strokeplay form: 2-16-MC-46
Course form: n/a
China form: MC-7
World ranking: 5
Lee Westwood (10/1): Westwood finished fifth and had a hole-in-one on this course at last year's Lake Malaren Shanghai Masters and has plenty of winning form in Asia. He produced some super golf in the Turkish Airlines event recently and can often hit spectacular heights in late-season events so he's another who punters should keep a close eye on.
Latest strokeplay form: 30-2-13-5
Course form: 5
China form: 13-2-54-8
World ranking: 4
Luke Donald (10/1): Another of Europe's Ryder Cup heroes to have banked a point in the amazing Sunday singles, Donald will be hoping to round off the season with a second BMW win after capturing the PGA Championship at Wentworth. Hasn't played as much in Asia as some of his big-name rivals but was third at the HSBC in China on his last visit in 2010.
Latest strokeplay form: 3-28-26-10
Course form: n/a
China form: 3
World ranking: 3
Nicolas Colsaerts (18/1): China has a special place in the Belgian's heart as it was here in 2011 where he posted his first European Tour success. Colsaerts also finished runner-up when defending it back in April so he likes this part of the world. Add in the high he's still on after Europe's Ryder Cup victory and this vastly improved big-hitter will fancy his chances.
Latest strokeplay form: 35-5-8-19
Course form: n/a
China form: 2-35-20-1
World ranking: 33
Louis Oosthuizen (18/1): The South African still doesn't attract the same attention as some of his fellow elite players but he's quietly picked up four top fives in his last eight strokeplay starts. That included a fourth place in last week's OneAsia Tour China Masters so that could prove useful prep for this week in terms of being acclimatised even though it was a weakly-contested event. One negative is that he finished 18 shots behind winner McIlroy on this course 12 months ago.
Latest strokeplay form: 4-MC-23-16
Course form: 19
China form: 4-7-72-34
World ranking: 12
Ian Poulter (25/1): The undoubted star of Europe's Ryder Cup win has a reputation for picking up global victories late in the year (2009 Singapore Open, 2010 Hong Kong Open, 2011 JBWere Masters in Australia). A field of this quality will get his competitive juices flowing again and he also has course form after a sixth in the Lake Malaren Shanghai Masters last year.
Latest strokeplay form: 12-47-36-3
Course form: 6
China form: 29-4-13-1
World ranking: 27
Francesco Molinari (25/1): The man whose half point against Tiger Woods secured outright victory for Europe in the Ryder Cup has a superb record in China. His last seven starts in the country include a win, a second, two thirds, a sixth and a 10th. Also has the benefit of a recent strokeplay outing after finishing 16th in Portugal a fortnight ago.
Latest strokeplay form: 16-46-6-54
Course form: n/a
China form: 6-23-1-3
World ranking: 30
Best of the rest:
YE Yang (40/1): The Korean has had a poor year by his own high standards but his game has clicked recently with a third in the Korea Open and a second in the China Masters in the last two weeks. Also won the 2010 China Open and was ninth on this course 12 months ago so there are some good reasons for siding with him.
Paul Casey (45/1): After a season to forget, Casey has finally found some form in recent weeks with a third in a low-key Korean event and a tied fifth in last week's Perth International. He also boasts an excellent record in China - two wins and two top sixes in his last three starts - so this could be a good place for the former world number three to continue his renaissance.
Richie Ramsay (50/1): One of the game's form horses after a win, two second places and a sixth in his last five starts. Lost a play-off in India last week after bogeying the final hole so will be keen to make amends. Also has three top fives in his last six starts in China.
It's hard to see past one of the Ryder Cup stars winning the hefty first-prize and Rory McIlroy's course form and Asian Tour form really is superb. A 20th career singles title for girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki last week may also add a little inspiration.
However, at the odds, the two Medinah heroes I like best are Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter.
Westwood often plays out of his skin at this time of year and hinted at it again during the Turkish Airlines Golf Final when runner-up.
"I think I do well in Asia because I just adapt well. I adapt to the grasses and I adapt to the culture and the food," said Westwood after winning last year's seven-city Shui On Land China Golf Challenge - an event which featured McIlroy, Poulter and China's Liang Wen-chong.
At his best, Poulter can live with anyone so the 25/1 looks very decent each-way value on a player who often thrives in the final few months of the year.
After the 2010 Ryder Cup, Poulter's next four strokeplay results were 13th, 6th, 1st, 2nd so they suggest he build on his high rather than suffer a let-down.
Finally, a combination of current form and previous exploits in China suggests that Scotland's Richie Ramsay can get himself into contention at 50/1.Best bets:
Lee Westwood (win)
Ian Poulter (each-way)
Richie Ramsay (each-way)