Thai: Best bets
Dave Tindall looks at the leading contenders and top wagers for the Thailand Golf Championship.
By Dave Tindall
Last Updated: 05/12/12 2:46pm
The Asian Tour's flagship event - the Thailand Golf Championship - has attracted some of the top names in world golf and this week's event can be seen live on Sky Sports for all four days.
Three of Europe's Ryder Cup winners have made it to Amata Spring Country Club for the US$1 million tournament while the last two Masters champions line up too.
The 7,453-yard Amata Spring track, a par 72, requires a combination of booming drives and placement and yielded a stunning first round 60 last year.
That event, the first time it had been played, was eventually won by Lee Westwood on 22-under and he heads the betting for this year's showdown.
The leading contenders (and Sky Bet odds):
Lee Westwood (9/2): Westwood produced some extraordinary golf for the first two rounds here last year. He opened with an amazing 12-under 60 and then followed it up with a 64 to set the Asian Tour 36-hole record of 20-under. However, aside from an admittedly startling 61 in round three of last month's HSBC, Westwood hasn't been able to find the kind of late season form we expect of him and he rather faded in last week's Nedbank Golf Challenge when bidding for a hat-trick of wins in the Sun City event, finishing fifth out of 12.
Course form: 1
Current form: 5-48-6-14
World ranking: 6
Charl Schwartzel (5/1): The 2011 Masters winner, who hasn't managed a win anywhere since that Augusta triumph, is knocking loudly at the door again after a barren spell. He was runner-up to Martin Kaymer in last week's Nedbank Golf Challenge and that followed on from a third in the DP Tour Championship in Dubai and a fifth in the South African Open. Interestingly, he has course form too after finishing as Westwood's nearest rival in this event last year, albeit seven shots behind the Englishman.
Course form: 2
Current form: 2-3-5-16
World ranking: 27
Sergio Garcia (10/1): The Spaniard, playing in his first event since the Ryder Cup following a break for eye surgery, produced a remarkable performance in the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. On Thursday and Saturday he struggled round in 73 but on Friday and Sunday he was magnificent, shooting eight-under 64. It all added up to a ninth place finish which was a pretty smart effort. He played here last year and finished 24th after a slow start (76) but he'll be fresher than most and ranks as a big threat.
Course form: 24
Current form: 9-15-24-3
World ranking: 22
Bubba Watson (12/1): The beaten American Ryder Cup team appear to be under a collective cloud in these late-season events. Masters champ Bubba has appeared just twice since Medinah, finishing a medicore 33rd in the HSBC and a mid-table ninth of 18 in Tiger's World Challenge event last week. The big-hitting left-hander should entertain the locals with his huge driving but he doesn't look great betting material judged on recent efforts.
Course form: n/a
Current form: 9-33-5-12
World ranking: 12
Hunter Mahan (12/1): Missing the Ryder Cup will leave Mahan without the same mental scars being carried by his countrymen so, in theory, he could be the one this week. That said, he didn't pull up many trees in the World Challenge in California last time out (9th of 18) although he was hardly game-sharp after a long break. We don't see him in this part of the world too often although he did finish tied third in last year's Shanghai Masters in China and seventh in the following week's HSBC.
Course form: n/a
Current form: 9-8-70-39
World ranking: 25
Nicolas Colsaerts (20/1): The Belgian probably found the Gary Player Country Club too penal last week and faded to 10th of 12 after a bright start. This should be much more up his street although he hasn't really hit top form since his memorable Ryder Cup debut and the globetrotting (he's played in the US, China, Japan, the UAE and South Africa since Medinah) might have take the edge of him a little. Hugely talented though and isn't the worst price in a field with little strength in depth so watch him closely.
Course form: n/a
Current form: 10-34-22-54
World ranking: 35
Best of the rest:
Thongchai Jaidee (25/1): The Asian Tour's record money earner, who was paratrooper in the Thai army, will have huge focus on him this week. In recent events on the European Tour he was 10th in the Hong Kong Open and seventh in the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai so he can clearly cut it against the big guns. Also sixth in last week's Kings Cup on home soil.
Simon Dyson (33/1): Always one to consider in this neck of the woods as he admits he loves playing in Asia. Dyson, who actually won the Asia Tour of Merit back in 2000, was fourth here last year so has to have decent each-way claims. He was also tied 19th in Hong Kong a couple of starts ago.
Thaworn Wiratchant (40/1): The Thai veteran will have huge support this week and seems to relish playing in front of his home fans. The 45-year-old, who won the Indian Open last month, can boast a win and a second (last week) in his last three Asian Tour stats on home Thai soil and he was a decent tied 19th here last year. Definite each-way claims.
Anirban Lahiri: A return to Amata Spring Country Club has to spark great memories for the Indian. It was here that he won International Final Open qualifying and stamped his ticket for Royal Lytham, where he memorably made a hole-in-one. He's finished sixth and eighth in his last two full-field events in Thailand so seems to like playing here.
With two more of Jose Maria Olazabal's team entering the winners' circle last week - Martin Kaymer (Nedbank Challenge) and Graeme McDowell (World Challenge) - there are certainly good grounds for pencilling in Westwood, Garcia and Colsaerts as the men to follow.
Since Medinah, seven of the European team - Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Peter Hanson, Kaymer and McDowell - have won events worldwide while even vice-captain Miguel Angel Jimenez has got in on the act by winning in Hong Kong.
Westwood is the obvious choice but 9/2 is skinny given that he's not firing on all cylinders and better value lies in Garcia and Colsaerts at 10s and 20s respectively.
Also have a little each-way on India's Anirban Lahiri, who won International Final Open qualifying here back in March.